The Cardinals could offer struggling ace Chris Carpenter little help while he was on the hill. But they got him off the hook by rallying around the team's embattled former closer and beat the Giants 4-3 Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.
Carpenter struck out eight over five tough innings but allowed two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks to leave the game down by a run.
In fact, the only Redbirds tally up to that point was scored by Carpenter himself. He fouled off several pitches in the third inning before taking a pitch back up the middle for a single. Right fielder Jon Jay singled with Carp on second and it looked like the St. Louis hurler would have to hold at third base because the ball got to Giants left fielder Pat Burrell so quickly. But Burell appeared to look up to see where Carpenter was on the bases and the ball hopped over his glove and rolled to the warning track as the pitcher scored and Jay came all the way around to third base.
San Francisco scored a run off Carpenter in the fifth and another in the seventh when Jason Motte walked a batter and then Trever Miller came in to face a pair of lefties. Miller hit the first hitter and gave up a two-strike hit to the next before getting out of the inning with St. Louis down 3-1.
In the bottom of the eighth, Jon Jay led off with a double just inside the first base bag. Albert Pujols came to the plate and ripped a ball into the left centerfield gap to plate Jay and end up standing at second. Lance Berkman grounded out to third without advancing Pujols. But Allen Craig poked a ball into the right centerfield gap to score Pujols and tie the game at three runs.
The Giants brought in a lefty with two outs and Redbirds manager Tony La Russa stuck with lefty hitter Skip Schumaker with the tying run on second and two outs. Schumaker hit the ball deep into the hole to the left of San Francisco second baseman Freddie Sanchez and the infielder's throw was just wide of the bag to allow Skippy to reach safely and the tying run to score.
Fernando Salas easily retired the first two Giants, one on a strikeout and the next on a foul lazy fly ball to Craig in left field. The next hitter flaired a ball to centerfield and it found a landing spot on the grass when centerfield Colby Rasmus got a lousy jump and then couldn't make up for it with a diving attempt at the ball. But Salas, with the tying run on second, was able to hang tough and get the final out for his 10th consecutive save and to return the Cardinals to 10 games over .500.
Ryan Theriot was 1-for-4 in the game to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.
Ryan Franklin pitched a perfect eighth in which he struck out the side to earn the win. Franklin has had much better command his last two or three outings and is starting to look like a valuable asset once again. I'm not sure if La Russa would take Salas' job as the closer away as long as he is performing well. But, before Franklin was the Redbirds closer he was a heckuva good setup man. And, with Mitchell Boggs in the minors and Jason Motte serving as an early in the game when you need a strikeout sort of pitcher, the club can certainly use a setup man.
Matt Holliday, penciled in as the clean-up hitter and left fielder before the start of the game, was a last minute scratch in favor of Craig. Apparenty Holliday's sore quad is still a problem. He struck out on three pitches during a pinch hitting appearance in the bottom of the fifth.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Craig was 2-for-4 with the game tying hit.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Schumaker's go ahead hit -- which was made possible only by his great hustle down the first base line.
Lowlight: Rasmus' lousy defense almost opened the door for a Giants rally in the ninth.