Albert Pujols is headed for his
third National League Most Valuable Player award mostly because of what he does
at bat. But manager Tony La Russa barely could stop talking about what Pujols
did on the bases Wednesday as the Cardinals completed a two-out-of-three series
victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cardinals’ offense mostly had
been inefficient against the Dodgers, going 1-for-10 with men in scoring
position, until Pujols took matters into his own feet in the ninth
Leading off against Dodgers closer
Jonathan Broxton, Pujols drew a walk. Then, on a 3-0 pitch to Matt Holliday
(which was called a strike), Pujols took off for second. He slid in safely with
a stolen base, and when second baseman Orlando Hudson couldn’t stop catcher
Russell Martin’s bouncing throw, Pujols continued to
Pujols then scored what proved to
be the winning run on Holliday’s sacrifice fly.
“I took advantage. They weren’t
paying attention to me,” said Pujols, who leads the club with 12 stolen bases.
“You don’t have to be a hero at the plate. You can win a game by making a diving
play or running the bases the right way.”
A gushing La Russa said, “If
you’re looking at why he’s a great ballplayer and not just a great hitter, look
at that one. A great play by a great player.”
For the second night out of three
in the series, Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin retired Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez and third baseman Casey Blake in the ninth inning while protecting a
one-run lead. Franklin also got first baseman James Loney to end the game after
erratic left-hander Dennys Reyes had hit right fielder Andre Ethier with the
only pitch he threw in the ninth inning to put Franklin in immediate
Cardinals 3, Dodgers
2: The Cardinals might see the
Dodgers again in six or seven weeks in postseason play but, if they do, they’ll
be armed with the information that they have beaten the Dodgers in both series
the clubs played this year and had a 5-2 advantage overall. RHP Adam Wainwright,
who had a no-hitter for 5 1/3 innings, reeled off his 24th consecutive start of
at least six innings and 11th consecutive start of two runs or fewer. But he
couldn’t get his 15th win because he allowed seventh-inning solo homers to
Dodgers RF Andre Ethier and 3B Casey Blake.
• RHP John Smoltz’s decision to
sign with the Cardinals had the team’s clubhouse abuzz. Smoltz will start Sunday
at San Diego. 3B Mark DeRosa, a former Atlanta teammate of Smoltz who had been lobbying the
Cardinals to sign Smoltz after the latter was designated by Boston, said, “The thing I
tried to impress on him was how easy the transition is going to be when he walks
into the clubhouse.” Manager Tony La Russa said that Smoltz still might wind up
in the bullpen, but the best way for him to get his timing after not pitching
for two weeks is to start. After Sunday, Smoltz’s next outing is scheduled for
Aug. 29 at home against Washington. “After those starts, we’ll
evaluate it,” La Russa said. “If you look and see which need is more critical,
it would be the reliever thing.”
• For only the second time in the
more than three weeks that LF Matt Holliday has been with the Cardinals, he and
1B Albert Pujols were held hitless in the same game Tuesday. The other time came
on Aug. 2 against Houston. Pujols had a hitting streak snapped at
12 games. Holliday’s 19-game hitting streak against the Dodgers came to an
• The Cardinals went well over the
commissioner’s office suggested scale of $1.6 million when they gave Brownwood, Texas, RHP Shelby Miller, a high schooler, a
$2.875 million bonus to sign as the 19th selection in the June draft. “This
speaks how highly we value him as a prospect,” said club chairman Bill DeWitt
Jr. A few weeks back, the Cardinals invested $3.1 million in 16-year-old OF
Wagner Mateo, a Dominican
Republic free agent.
• LF Matt Holliday has been Mr.
Clutch with a runner at third and fewer than two outs. His ninth-inning
sacrifice fly that won the game on Wednesday marked the seventh time in seven
such situations that he had delivered the run. Holliday and 1B Albert Pujols
went hitless in the same game for the second consecutive night, but Pujols
walked, stole second and went to third on an error to set up Holliday’s
• SS Brendan Ryan, a Southern California native, got to show off before his
home fans as a regular player for the first time at Dodger Stadium. Ryan had two
singles and a triple and played stellar defense.
• RHP Adam Wainwright’s walk-less
streak ended at 28 innings when he passed LF Manny Ramirez in the fifth inning.
The last batter Wainwright had walked was on July 28—when he walked Ramirez in
the fifth inning.
• RHP Ryan Franklin has 31 saves in
33 tries and has permitted only one of 15 inherited runners to