It looked like another one of “those games” in the second inning on Sunday.
After the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead over the Pirates in the bottom of the first (thanks to RBI from David Freese, Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot), Kyle Lohse gave up three straight hits to start the second. Another hit plus a Theriot error made the score 4-3 Pittsburgh going into the bottom of the second.
Thankfully, that was the last the Pirates scored for the game. Even better, Theriot redeemed himself with a game-tying single in the third. The next inning, Allen Craig put the Cards on top with a sacrifice fly that allowed K-Lo himself to score. (He’s been hitterish again, getting on base with a single.) And that lead gave Lohse career win No. 100.
Obviously, it wasn’t the prettiest victory of those 100. But Tony La Russa was impressed:
“It was a tough start for him, but the last three innings he pitched, he really pitched. He had a totally different demeanor. He just kept competing. Today, he never gave the appearance that he wasn’t able to get the next batter out.”
K-Lo retired the final eight batters he faced.
Since he only pitched five innings, though, that meant the bullpen got plenty of action. And each reliever more than did his job. Marc Rzepczynski allowed one hit but struck out three in his inning, Kyle McClellan allowed no hits in 1 1/3 innings and Arthur Rhodes allowed a hit but nicely fielded a grounder to start an inning-ending double play for his 2/3 of an inning. Then there was Jason Motte, who came on to close it — and did the job successfully, earning his first save of the season with a hitless ninth.
The Cards added a couple more runs in the seventh to increase their lead to 7-4. Freese had an epic 10-pitch at-bat before singling just over a leaping Neil Walker’s glove. Skip then drove in Lance Berkman for his second RBI of the game — a total that Freese and Theriot each had also. Matt Holliday had two doubles on his bobblehead day.
So, it was a good weekend overall for the Cardinals — they took three of four from the Pirates. However, or of course, the Brewers swept the Cubs so the Cards stand 10 1/2 games back. Yes, the two teams now play each other. But even a Cardinals sweep of these three plus the final three against Milwaukee next week mean … 4 1/2 games back, at least.
Mathematically, yes, there is still a chance. Realistically? The Brewers are the first team to have their magic number listed on the standings page at Yahoo, because they have the biggest lead of any division.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still reasons to watch, and enjoy, the games. Some night in the months ahead, after the season ends but long before spring training, you’ll be wishing there was a baseball game to watch on TV.
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.