Torres’s grand slam burries Cardinals

Kyle McClellan was eyeing his seventh win of the season Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants, until the injury depleted visitors found their offensive groove.

After serving up a fourth inning grand slam to leadoff man Andres Torres, McClellan (6-2) and the Cardinals were left in the dust, thanks to a strong outing from lefty Madison Bumgarner (2-6), who notched just his second victory of the season.

As I mentioned earlier, McClellan has seen better days. Monday’s outing marked the shortest start of the season for the Cardinal right-hander, as he lasted just four innings and surrendered seven runs off seven hits, capped by Torres’s first career grand slam.

Prior to Monday, McClellan had thrown at least five innings in every appearance, and his seven earned runs are a career-high.

The Giants got on the board first when outfielder Cody Ross blasted a solo home run to left. The 438 foot bomb was his fourth of the season and the sixth longest round tripper hit by an opponent in Busch Stadium III history.

The Cardinals knotted the game at 2-2 in the third, when Ryan Theriot lined a double down the left field line, extending his hitting streak to a team-high 13 games. Allen Craig mirrored and scored Theriot before Albert Pujols drove an RBI single passed the outstretched glove of second baseman Freddy Sanchez.

With a brand new game, the Giants exploded for five runs off three hits in the fourth, tying their team-high for most runs scored in a single inning this season.

Pujols added a solo blast off Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez in the eighth, but the offense ran out of gas as the Giants took the first of a four game series.

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Notes

  • Craig has posted the highest batting average in the National League since May 19 ( 15-33, .455) and has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games…his two doubles are a single-game high.
  • Theriot’s 13-game hitting streak ( 19-55, .345) is tied for the active lead in the NL with Buster Posey.
  • Matt Holliday’s single in the sixth inning was his first hit since hitting a two-run home run in Kansas City on May 21.
  • Pujols’ home run marked the first long ball at Busch Stadium for the Cardinal first baseman since April 23 versus Cincinnati…it was his 99th home run at Busch Stadium III and his 417th career home run (ranks 44th all-time- trails Jason Giambi for 43rd all time with 421).

McClellan struggling in series opener

Kyle McClellan has seen better days. The Giants are teeing off on the Cardinals’ starter in the first of four games between the two clubs.

After allowing two runs on four hits through the first three innings, the Giants tagged McClellan for five runs in the top of the fourth, capped by Andres Torres’s first career grand slam, which landed 337 feet away from home plate in the right field stands, putting the Giants ahead 7-2.

McClellan has fallen behind on 11 of the 21 batters he’s faced and has allowed the leadoff man to score in three of the four innings he’s worked.

The grand slam was the second home run McClellan has surrendered this afternoon.

Theriot extends hitting streak to 13 games, Cards tie game at 2-2

Down 2-0 with two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Cardinals’ leadoff man Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to a team-best 13 games with a double down the left field line.

Allen Craig, who got the start at second base for the Cardinals, drove Theriot in from second with a double of his own that caromed off the wall down the left field line to put the Cardinals on the board.

Albert Pujols drove Craig in with an RBI single to right field tying the contest at 2-2. Pujols advanced to second on the throw home from right field.

 

Tejada’s RBI single puts Giants up 2-0

Miguel Tejada entered today’s game batting .375 off Kyle McClellan. The 15-year veteran drove in starter Madison Bumgarner, who scorched a leadoff double to left-center field off McClellan to double the Giants lead to 2-0 in the top of the third inning.

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Giants outfielder Cody Ross had just three home runs on the season before blasting a 438 foot solo shot to left-center field in the top of the second inning off Cardinals’ starter Kyle McClellan.

Prior to the homer, Ross was hitless in his last 14 at-bats and was o for two against McClellan for his career. Ross owned a .189 batting average (10-for-53) in 18 games on the road this season.

The blast was the eighth homer McClellan has allowed this season, tying him with Chris Carpenter for the team lead.

Holliday back in lineup versus Giants

For the first time in eight days Matt Holliday will return to the lineup after suffering tightness of the quadriceps muscle in his left leg.

The left fielder was lifted on May 22 against the Kansas City Royals after re-aggravating the injury and did not play during the San Diego series earlier this week. Last Friday, Holliday made his first plate appearance, an intentional walk, since sustaining the injury.

According to the four-time All-Star, everything is good to go.

“I feel good,” Holliday said. “You never take your health for granted, but I feel pretty good. It’s nice to be able to get back out there.”

When asked if he was 100 percent healthy, Holliday laughed.

“If 110 percent is all you’ve got, then I’d probably say I’m 107 [percent].”

Cardinals Lineup:

Theriot ss

Craig 2b

Pujols 1b

Holliday lf

Berkman rf

Rasmus cf

Molina c

Descalso 3b

McClellan p

 

Giants Lineup:

Torres cf

Tejada 3b

Sanchez 2b

Huff 1b

Ross rf

Crawford ss

Whiteside c

Bumgarner p

McClellan eyeing seventh win…Kyle McClellan (6-1) has been dominant for Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. Today, the right-hander is vying for his seventh victory of the season, and would become the sixth pitcher in the National League and the second Cardinal to do so. Kyle Lohse (7-2) is among the pool of starters with seven wins to this date.

All alone in first…As of today, the Cardinals hold a 2.5 game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the Central division, while the Cincinnati Reds are five games out. The Cardinals have lost just three of their last 10 games, while the Reds have dropped eight of their last 10.

 

 

Ball State hosts Toledo in final series of season

The three-game regular season series finale between Ball State and Toledo has been postponed Thursday due to inclement weather. The two teams will play a doubleheader Friday afternoon at Ball Diamond, with a 1 p.m. first pitch.

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Ball State’s chances of reaching the Mid-American Conference Tournament were all but washed away after it dropped two of three games to Northern Illinois last weekend.

Despite losing 11 of its last 14 games, including being swept in consecutive series’ and a 14-9 loss at Purdue on May 11, Ball State (13-34, 9-14) has a shot at penciling itself in as one of the eight tournament members.

However, the Cardinals don’t control their own destiny. They will need help from the Huskies, who take on the Broncos in a three-game series beginning Thursday in Kalamazoo, Mich.

First things first. Ball State will have to take care of business against a stout Toledo team that ranks fifth in the MAC in hits, with 466 and second in steals, with 70.

The Rockets (25-25, 14-10) are currently tied with the Huskies for third place in the West division entering the final three games of the season.

Ball State rounds out the West division, sitting two full games behind the Broncos.

Coach Alex Marconi will send his No. 1 pitcher, junior Cal Bowling (4-5, 3.46 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. Bowling will be making his team-leading 14th start of the season versus the Rockets. The right-hander has worked a team-high 80 2/3 innings this season, while striking out 46 batters to walking 29.

Bowling hasn’t been sharp over his last four starts. He’s (0-3), with a 7.57 ERA over the span, and has allowed 25 runs, 17 earned in just 20 2/3 innings of work. Another significant statistic is that Bowling has issued 10 walks to nine strikeouts over his last four outings.

In his last start-the best of his previous four-Bowling picked up a no decision against the Huskies by tossing 6 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits.

The Cardinals defense hasn’t given Bowling much support either. Eight of Bowling’s 17 earned runs over his past four outings have been unearned.

The Rockets will send junior Lincoln Rassi (3-5, 5.14 ERA) to the hill in game one. Rassi has fanned 52 hitters contrary to walking 23 on the season. The righty also picked up a no decision last weekend versus Eastern Michigan after allowing just three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Offensively, Ball State owns a .261 team batting average, which ranks near the bottom of the conference.

Junior Cody Elliot leads the Cardinals with a .323 average, 61 hits, 33 runs, 36 RBIs and 14 stolen bases this season.

The Cardinals enter a must win situation this weekend. Sound defense, timely hitting and near perfect pitching will be vital for Ball State to have any chance at seeing postseason action.

Ball State hits the road in must win scenario

If Ball State has any hopes of turning a very disheartening and disappointing season into something worth writing home about, it must start winning and doing so swiftly.

Despite showing signs of liveliness at times, the Cardinals (12-32) have struggled for the majority of the season.

Their (8-12) mark in the Mid-American Conference doesn’t sit well with anyone, and first year coach Alex Marconi will be the first to admit it. His high expectations set at the beginning of the season have not been met. At least not yet.

For now, the goal is to string together a winning streak to slip into the MAC Tournament, which is set to begin on May 25, less than two weeks away.

Ball State will have their hands full as it travels to DeKalb, Ill., for a pivotal three-game weekend series with the Northern Illinois Huskies (24-22), who currently sit in fourth place in the MAC West division with a record of (12-9).

At first glance, it appears that barring any farfetched outcomes, the Huskies will secure one of the eight spots in the tournament.

The foreseeable future isn’t so clear for the Cardinals, who are 1 1/2 games behind Western Michigan, who swept them last weekend, in the West.

The Huskies enter this weekend’s series, which is set to begin Friday with a 3 p.m. first pitch, holding a .277 team batting average, fifth best in the conference.

Junior infielder Alex Jones owns the fifth best batting average in the MAC, at .356, and sophomore Jamison Wells leads the team and is second in the conference with 21 steals on the season.

The Cardinals will try to contain the Huskies offense by sending Cal Bowling, Derek Grabner and Devin Wilburn to the mound.

Bowling, a junior right-hander, will be making his team-leading 13th start of the season. Despite owning a (4-5) record and a 3.15 ERA, Bowling has tossed a team-high 74 1/3 innings, including three complete games for Ball State this season.

The tone of the series will certainly depend on Bowling, who has the opportunity to give Ball State a much needed victory in Friday’s series opener.

It’s been a rocky last few outings for Bowling. Bowling is winless in his last three starts and has recorded an 8.24 ERA over that span. He’s also allowed 20 hits and his command has been sketchy, as he’s walked and struck out a combined six hitters.

Nonetheless, Ball State will need a solid outing from its No. 1 pitcher Friday afternoon, otherwise, the series could potentially be over after one game.

Look for Bowling to pitch to contact, as he’s done so all season. The key is for Bowling to be effective with his fastball and off-speed pitches.

Western Michigan dealing

Western Michigan entered today’s contest owning the second to last team batting average in the Mid-American Conference, .250. Through the game’s first four innings, it’s been all Broncos.

Western Michigan pounded out seven more runs in the fourth, adding to their lead, which is now 13-0. Troy Forton and Ryan McMillin are a combined 5-for-6, with two home runs, six RBIs and six runs scored for the Broncos. In all, 12 men came to the plate for the Broncos in the fourth inning.

Morgan Coombs was lifted after giving up a lead off single to open up the fourth inning. Coombs lasted just three innings, allowing six runs, two of which were earned on five hits.

Freshman Jacob Brewer came on in relief for Ball State, but was lit up by the Broncos. Brewer recorded just two outs and yielded four runs in his brief appearance.

The last eight Ball State hitters have been retired in order by Western Michigan. The Cardinals have just two hits thus far. Broncos lead 13-0 after five innings of play.

***

The aftershock of last weekend’s sweep versus Eastern Michigan appears to have carried over to this weekend for Ball State. Western Michigan’s Ryan McMillin tagged fifth-year senior Morgan Coombs for a two-run home run in the second inning and a three-run shot in the third. McMillin has two home runs and five RBIs thus far.

Coombs has allowed six runs, two of which were earned in three innings of work for Ball State.

The Cardinals ran themselves out of the third, stranding runners on first and third with only one out.

Western Michigan leads 6-0 after three innings of play.

***

Fifth-year senior Morgan Coombs breezed through the first inning, retiring the Broncos in order. However, the righty served up a two-run home run in the second off the bat of junior third baseman Ryan McMillin. The blast was the second of the season for McMillin.

Western Michigan leads Ball State 2-0 after two innings of play.

***

After being swept by Eastern Michigan last weekend, Ball State (12-18, 8-9) will host pivotal series at Ball Diamond versus Mid-American Conference West division foe Western Michigan (19-25, 7-11) beginning this afternoon.

The Cardinals currently sit in the final spot for the 2011 Mid-American Conference Tournament, and own a half game lead over the Broncos.

Despite a poor performance last weekend, coach Alex Marconi said his team is revamped for this weekend’s showdown with the Broncos.

“They had no choice but to get rid of that last weekend pretty quickly, because they’ve got something equally important ahead of them, which were [finals] this week and another very important weekend for us coming up,” Marconi said.

After junior righty Cal Bowling experienced inflammation in his back, Marconi tweaked his starting rotation for this weekend’s series.

Fifth-year senior Morgan Coombs will get the start in game one for Ball State. Coombs, a six-foot-one righty, is 4-3, with a a 3.80 ERA this season for the Cardinals. Today marks Coombs’s eighth start of the season. Last weekend Coombs worked seven strong innings for Ball State, allowing just three earned runs.

Bowling will make his 12th start of the season on Saturday. Bowling is 4-4, with a 3.26 ERA and has tossed a team-high 69 innings.

At the plate, Ball State is led by junior center fielder Cody Elliott, who owns a team-high .319 batting average, including a .370 mark in conference play. Elliott, who has also been used out of the bullpen by Marconi this season, also leads the Cardinals in hits (52), RBI (29), runs (25), doubles (10), triples (5) and stolen bases (13).

First pitch is set for 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Lineups:

Western Michigan

Martinez, 7

Duncan, 6

Scanlon, 9

Forton, 3

McMillin 5

Cross, dh

Thoma, 4

Booker 8

Ball State

Elliott, 8

Baumet, 6

Widau, 4

Mahala, 3

Beemer, 9

Issler, 5

Godfrey, dh

Overley, 2

K. Campbell, 7