The difference between a veteran and a rookie pitcher often is no more apparent than when his team hands him a lead.
Jaime Garcia has struggled lately to hold on to early leads. Adam Wainwright didn't make the same mistake when Albert Pujols homered in the first inning to spot him three runs.
Wainwright seized the opportunity and threw a complete game, two-hit shutout at the Marlins to give the Cardinals a 7-0 win and improve his record to 16-6 with a 2.07 ERA.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols hits a homer in the first inning Friday at Florida. AP photo.
Pujols has fooled us a couple of times this season when it looked like he was getting hot only to quickly shut back down. But I think this is the real deal. Pujols is driving the ball with authority to all parts of the park. And he is starting to punish pitches high in the strike zone instead of popping them up. That's key because the big guy has carried this team for long stretches before.
Rookie rightfielder Jon Jay, who starred at the University of Miami, put on a show for his friends and relatives in the audience. He had three hits, scored three runs and drove in another to set the table. Aaron Miles and Brendan Ryan were both 2-for-4. It seems like yesterday that Ryan was hitting .185 and suddenly he's hitting .227 and is scoring important runs.
Ryan's batting .452 in his last 11 games with nine runs scored.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Wainwright
Cardinals Play of the Game: Pujols' first inning homer
Lowlight: Felipe Lopez was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.