Bad defense and an Albert Pujols double play ball robbed Jaime Garcia of a well-deserved sixth win Tuesday night. But the night was salvaged when Lance Berkman delivered a walk off hit on the first pitch he saw in the ninth to pull out a 2-1 win for the Redbirds.
Pujols, with runners at first and third and only one out early in the game had a chance to bust open a 1-0 contest... Or to at least extend the lead with a sacrifice fly. He could do neither, instead hitting into a tailor made 6-4-3 double play to kill the rally and keep the lead razor thin.
Garcia, who was nearly flawless, allowed five hits and one walk over eight innings. In his last frame, with one out, Jimmy Rollins hit a lazy pop-up to second base. The ball wasn't hit particularly high. The wind was still and the lights weren't a factor. It simply landed in the pocket of Tyler Greene's glove as he tried to catch the ball one-handed... and then popped right out. Michael Martinez then singled to move Rollins to third base and former Cardinals infielder Placido Polanco hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game and take away Garcia's win.
The Redbirds got a leadoff hit from Ryan Theriot in the bottom of the ninth and Jon Jay followed with a single of his own. Then Pujols reached on a bloop to right to load the bases with no one out. Matt Holliday hit a ball to short that was converted into a forceout at the plate. But Berkman ripped a one-out base hit to centerfield to push the winning run across the dish.
There were some positive signs for the big guy Tuesday night. Pujols hit a deep ball to left field that would have been a homer had it not just barely gone foul. Later in the same at bat he hit a ground rule double over the right fielder's head for just his fourth two bagger of the season. He had three hits in five at bats in the game, although he has matched his career streak of 22 games without a homer.
Berkman joined Pujols with three hits in the middle of the batting order while Theriot and Jay each had a pair of hits to set the table at the top.
I still think that Pujols has become too predictable in his attempts to pull the ball and pitchers have been exploiting his one-diminsional approach. He has hit very few balls from the middle of the field to the right side this season which isn't his usual approach.
The Phillies brought in a lefty to face Berkman who traditionally has been a better batter from the left side of the plate. But the Cardinals slugger has been hitting better from the right side than the left for the past few weeks. While he may have more power lefthanded, he seems to have more control from the right side. And all he needed was to guide a ball into the outfield to win the game.
Fernando Salas, who pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, got the victory.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Garcia
Cardinals Play of the Game: Berkman's game winning hit.
Lowlight: Greene's error.