The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen gave up five runs in the eighth inning Sunday in a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The Cardinals continued their run of great starting pitching, but relievers Tyler Johnson and Josh Hancock allowed the winning runs in the eighth. Chris Carpenter pitched four and two-thirds innings, allowing no runs and only two hits. Carpenter kept the ball low in the strike zone, getting 12 ground balls in his day of work. St. Louis and Atlanta were at a complete offensive stand-still until the sixth inning, when the Cardinals put three runs on the board.
Tagg Bozied got things started for the Cardinals, securing a base hit with one out in the inning. Yadier Molina followed with a walk, and Aaron Miles' double scored Bozied. Molina ended up at third, and in the next at-bat, Brendan Ryan doubled, scoring both Molina and Bozied. Other than a Chris Duncan double in the fifth inning and a Scott Rolen single in the third inning, there was not much life coming from the Cardinals' bats on Sunday.
The Braves scored one run in the seventh inning when Andruw Jones walked, advanced to second, moved to third on a wild pitch by Kelvin Jimenez, and tagged up and scored on a Jeff Francoeur fly-out. The other runs all came in the top of the eighth, as Matt Diaz earned an RBI with a double along with T.J. Bohn, whose double brought in two runners. The other runs came via a bases-loaded walk and a force out.
The Cardinals are now 7-4-1 in the Grapefruit League, but this loss means absolutely nothing. The Cardinals have showed amazing potential with the starting rotation so far, and the bullpen isn't all together at the same time for every game. Look for improvement from Johnson and Hancock, anyway. The Cardinals will face the Braves again Monday at approximately 12:05 PM Central time.
-Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion took batting practice on the field for the first time today. This is good news for the Cardinals, as Edmonds is coming along wonderfully from his two offseason surgeries.
-One thing I noticed today is that Scott Rolen is really stinging the ball and his swing looks better than it has in quite some time. He could have had an extra-base hit today but a wonderful snow cone catch robbed him of that achievement.
-The player of the game is Chris Carpenter, who minimized the damage from two Cardinals' errors and escaped 4 2/3 innings unscathed.
-Another note: Albert Pujols and Adam Kennedy did not play Sunday. David Eckstein should be back in the lineup very soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
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