Thoughts on Matheny, Rams, Blues and Ball State

Good morning and happy Friday…There’s been a circus of events taking place in the St. Louis sports world and here at Ball State, so let’s dive right in:

When the Cardinals announced the hiring of Mike Matheny as the successor to Tony La Russa, a few thoughts popped into my head. First, it was the right choice for a multitude of reasons. Secondly, Matheny has proven himself to the Cardinals, the fans and the organization.

Rooting against Matheny would be foolish. His interview with general manager John Mozeliak and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. was thoroughly impressive and ultimately led to his hiring. Throughout his playing days in St. Louis, Matheny has earned the respect from current and former teammates, staff, fans, various media personnel and countless opponents. Matheny is an all-around leader.

Does this mean Matheny will be a successful manager? Absolutely not. Don’t forget that Matheny has zero coaching experience in the big leagues. He served as an instructor for the team over the last two seasons, but was Mozeliak’s and La Russa’s right-hand man. Matheny and La Russa spent countless days talking baseball in terms of philosophy and coaching among other things. When debating whether Matheny will be a good manager, the truth is simple: One can’t determine this outcome. There’s no evidence to base an opinion off of. Sure, Matheny possesses great leadership skills, which could carry over to his managerial days, but this job is one of the hardest in all of sports. Not to mention filling the shoes of TLR is a daunting task altogether. The pressure can be extreme and the expectations are higher than ever. As much as I hate to say this, there is no clear cut way of knowing how this will pan out. Sure, it’s a gamble and a huge one at that. Of course there were other options for Mozeliak and DeWitt Jr. to explore, but Matheny was the chosen one, which says a lot. Mozeliak is willing to take the risk, placing all of his marbles on Matheny’s potential. Of course, if it backfires, it’s all on Mozeliak.

Baseball analysts and other hardcore media experts will try jump to conclusions on Matheny’s hiring. That’s a given. The Cardinals will be ripped for hiring a guy who some say “took the easy route” into managing, leap-frogging over other potential managers who have waited years for this opportunity. I don’t buy that at all. It’s absurd. How can you be so quick to judge Matheny? There’s no track record to base an argument on. Like I said, it’s certainly a gamble, but I’ll go with Mozeliak and DeWitt Jr’s. decision here. There’s a chance they know more about the situation than I or any other  expert.

With all decisions comes the question of political correctness. This topic is both amusing and frustrating. Critics will ask why Mozeliak gave the job to Matheny while passing on longtime third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who is a native of Puerto Rico. Mozeliak chose Matheny over five other candidates, four of which were white guys. So why did Mozeliak choose Matheny? To put it bluntly, Matheny was already an insider. A close ally, already a member of the Cardinal family. Enough with all of the PC garbage. It’s irrelevant to the situation.

Mozeliak is now the boss. When TLR retired, Mozeliak knew his first chance to gain sole power in the organization would come with his first hire. Other alterations within the organization will likely take place. Consider what Mozeliak has done this past season. He made the risky trades that became a huge factor in the Cardinals’ Cinderella-like run to their 11th World Series championship in franchise history.

Moving on…

Steve Spagnuolo deserves a lot of credit for coming away with a much-need victory over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. This season has turned for the worst, and critics, including myself have constantly blasted Spags and his staff for the results of what once was thought to be a promising season.

Steven Jackson appears to be in full swing now that he is back in the lineup for the Rams. Over the last three weeks, SJ has racked up 417 yards on the ground. He’s rushed for more than 100-yards three weeks in a row and has been a huge relief for quarterback Sam Bradford, who has struggled with an ankle injury. Jackson has also taken pressure off the offensive line, who continues to have problems with pass protection.

The Seattle Seahawks come to town on Sunday and many will tune out to this one, but make no mistake, this is a huge game for the Rams. At 2-7, a victory would tie the Rams with the Seahawks in the NFC West and put them within reach of the virtually unbeatable 49ers, who have a commanding five-game lead in the division.

Moving on…

What a job Mike Hitchcock has done with the St. Louis Blues. When the Blues canned Davis Payne and lured Hitchcock away from Columbus, a new team has emerged from the dead. Let’s face it, prior to the Hitchcock hiring, the Blues were struggling in all facets of the game. They were 6-7 and falling fast under Payne. Many questioned why general manager Doug Armstrong was so quick to pull the plug on Payne, but the reality is simple; the Blues weren’t producing and Payne didn’t get the most out of the club. I will say this though; It’s sad that when everything goes wrong, the coach receives all of the blame. Shouldn’t the players be held accountable for playing lousy hockey? Just my opinion.

Anyway…Hitchcock, who is a no-nonsense coach, has transformed this team into a contender. At least for the team being. The Blues are 4-0-1 under Hitchcock, and are rolling on all cylinders. The Note have allowed just four goals and have received points in all four games. Against division rival Detroit, the Blues came away with a 2-1 victory at Scottrade Center, and Thursday night’s 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers capped a noteworthy five-game home stand. When up against adversity, this club doesn’t back down like it used to. Rather, they stand together. Midway through the first period of Tuesday night’s game, forward Chris Stewart put a vicious hit on defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and received a game misconduct. The Blues were also dealt a five-minute major. Already down 1-0, it looked as if things were going to get ugly quick. But the PK unit stood their ground, blocking shots at will, killing off six penalties on the night.

Moving on…

The Ball State men’s basketball team came within minutes of pulling off a major upset in its season opener vs. No. 16 Arizona, but couldn’t seal the deal, losing in the final minutes of regulation…Kudos to head coach Billy Taylor for preparing his team. Not only did they hold their own, they could and very well should have won the game. Just 28 seconds into the second half, the Cardinals held an 11-point lead over the Wildcats, who clearly underestimated the underdog Cardinals. So what they didn’t win. Arizona is one heck of a basketball program, historically speaking and honestly, few thought the game would be close, much less witnessing the team from the Mid-American Conference dominate for the majority of the game. If anything, this game should serve as a reminder of what this team is capable of accomplishing this season. Heck, if they can nearly upset the No. 16 team in the country, what would they do to teams within the MAC?

Moving on…

Speaking of basketball, the women’s team is off to a slow start. The Cardinals have dropped three straight to open up the season. Dating back to last season, including the Mid-American Conference tournament, the Cardinals have lost 13 straight. The stat certainly doesn’t sit well with coach Kelly Packard, who is in the midst of her fourth season behind the bench for the Cardinals, and is one win shy of 50 for her career.

Youth has plagued the Cardinals and will most likely trouble them throughout the 2011-12 season. The departures of last season’s leading scorers Emily Maggert and Ty’Ronda Benning leave a huge hole in the offense. With eight underclassmen, Packard is still in search for a winning formula. The Cardinals return to John E. Worthen Arena for a brief two-game home stand, which begins Saturday night against Murray State.

Thanks for reading…

-Poz

Cardinals interview Sandberg, Oquendo

The St. Louis Cardinals completed their first, and possibly only round of interviews to fill the coaching void following Tony La Russa’s retirement.

Ryne Sandberg, the Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer and Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo were interviewed at Busch Stadium on Wednesday. Sandberg and Oquendo are the final two candidates to be interviewed by general manager John Mozeliak and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.

According to Mozeliak, the interview process has been finalized, but there’s a possibility for follow up interviews with the vying six candidates, which include formal Cardinal Gold Glove catcher Mike Matheny, former Boston Red Sox manager and two-time World Series champion Terry Francona, Cardinals Triple-A Memphis manager Chris Maloney, former Cardinal Joe McEwing along with Sandberg and Oquendo.

The Cardinals received permission from the Philadelphia Phillies to interview Sandberg, who played for the Cardinals arch rival, the Chicago Cubs. Sandberg started his managerial career after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005. He managed for the past five seasons in the minor leagues with the Cubs and Phillies and was ruled out as a potential candidate to fill the void in Chicago, according to Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Sandberg met with Mozeliak and DeWitt Jr. for over two hours Wednesday morning, and according to the Associated Press, Sandberg said, “It was a comfortable conversation. From my standpoint, it went about as well as it could have gone.”

Oquendo’s interview was held in the afternoon and lasted around 2 1/2 hours.

When asked about his interview, Oquendo said, “I was encouraged,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I felt like it went pretty smooth. They asked a lot of questions, and it was fun to sit down and talk about it.”

Oquendo has been the Cardinals’ third base coach for the last 12 seasons, and is highly coveted by the organization. According to the Post-Dispatch, Oquendo said he would like to stay on in that capacity, if the opportunity presented itself.

Oquendo, according to the Post-Dispatch, had hoped to have a managing job before now, but he said: “Sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way. You have to be in the right place at the right time. If it’s not going to be me, I’m not going to be saying, ‘Why not?’ If it happens, it happens.”

The Cardinals are expected to make a coaching decision next week.

Fireworks could erupt as Carpenter squares off with Cueto

What a better time to celebrate the Fourth of July by having the Cincinnati Reds in town. Downtown St. Louis will be concluding its annual Fair St. Louis with concerts and fireworks, and oh, did I mention that Chris Carpenter will go head-to-head with Johnny Cueto for the first time since last August’s brawl in Cincinnati?

The Cardinals enter the first of three games with their division rivals in a first place tie with Milwaukee, while the Reds sit two games behind the Cardinals. After the smoke clears and the dust settles, a statement will be made by one of these contending teams.

After a 4-2 road trip, the Cardinals return to Busch Stadium, where they’ve posted a 21-18 record this season. The Reds have dropped three of their last five games, are 1-5 against the Cardinals this season and have tallied a 20-21 record away from Great American.

For the Cardinals, another golden opportunity to beat up on a divisional opponent is within their grasp. Taking two of three or better yet, sweeping the Reds would give the them a huge boost heading into the All-Star Break.

Lineups:

Cardinals:

1) Theriot, ss

2) Jay, rf

3) Holliday, lf

4) Berkman, 1b

5) Freese, 3b

6) Rasmus, cf

7) Molina, c

8) Schumaker, 2b

9) Carpenter, p

Reds:

1) Lewis, lf

2) Phillips, 2b

3) Votto, 1b

4) Rolen, 3b

5) Bruce, rf

6) Hernandez, c

7) Stubbs, cf

8) Renteria, ss

9) Cueto, p

Cards and Rays showcasing 50’s night at Tropicana Field

Game two of three between the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays will feature a throw-back wardrobe. Each team will show off a retro uniform from the 1950’s.

The Rays will sport their Tampa Smokers jerseys from ’51 when they were a part of the Florida International League, while the Cardinals will be flashing their road grey jerseys from ’53.

***Cards face one of league’s most intimidating pitchers…There are only three active players who compare with Rays’ starter Jeff Niemann (2-4, 5.58 ERA). At 6-foot-9, the Cardinals will matchup with one of the tallest pitchers in the game.

Niemann will be making his third start since being activated from the disabled list after suffering a strained lower back, and looks to shake off the cobwebs and give his team a win against the Cardinals, who have won four straight.

***McClellan makes first career start against Rays…Kyle McClellan (6-4, 4.02 ERA), the converted starter from reliever will be facing the Rays as a starter for the first time in his career. McClellan saw a glimpse of the Rays in 2008 in a relief appearance, but ultimately blew his first save. After a superb 5-0 start to the season, the right-hander has gone 1-4 over his last seven outings. Despite the latter stat, the Cardinals are 9-5 when McClellan is on the bump.

***Lineups:

Cardinals:

1) Punto, ss

2) Jay, rf

3) Holliday, dh

4) Berkman, lf

5) Freese, 1b

6) Rasmus, cf

7) Molina, c

8) Descaslso, 3b

9) Schumaker, 2b

Rays:

1) Damon, dh

2) Zobrist, 2b

3) Longoria, 3b

4) Joyce, rf

5) Upton, cf

6) Kotchman, 1b

7) Ruggiano, lf

8) Shoppach, c

9) Brignac, ss

Cards back on top of NL Central

It’s been a roller coaster for the St. Louis Cardinals over the past two weeks. At one point, the team had dropped 12 of 15 games, a mid-June stretch that dealt the them chunks of misfortune, bad-luck and injuries, most notably Albert Pujols, who landed on the disabled list with a fractured forearm.

In baseball, it takes just a game or two for a team to get hot, and that’s exactly what the Cardinals have been over their past four games. A three-game sweep over the American League East division Baltimore Orioles at Camdon Yards landed the Cardinals a share of first place in the National League Central division with the Milwaukee Brewers, who have lost four straight, including falling victim to a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, also of the AL East.

The Cardinals continued to roll Friday night, when they took the first of three games over the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3. Starter Jake Westbrook (7-4, 4.92 ERA) tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, while fanning seven to walking three.

Colby Rasmus launched his third home run in four games for the Cardinals, dealing the ultimate blow to the Rays, who entered the series having won four of their last six contests.

The win gave the Cardinals sole possession of first place in the Central, as the Brewers were handed yet another defeat, a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

For now, it appears the Cardinals’ worst rut of the season has been forgotten, as they are heating up during the summer’s hottest month.

***

Here’s what the Cardinals have done over their four-game winning streak:

1) The offense has found its groove, scoring 25 total runs for manager Tony La Russa, taking pressure off the starting rotation and the bullpen. Colby Rasmus, who has been on fire of late, has recorded five hits, including three home runs, driven in seven and has drawn four walks over his last seven games. He is clearly seeing the ball better, giving the offense extra boost in the middle of the order…Lance Berkman, who will no doubt be a starter in this summer’s All-Star Game in Arizona on July 12, continues to have a career-season. Puma, who is hitting .296, with 20 home runs, 58 RBIs and a .407 on-base-percentage, has tallied three hits, including two home runs and four RBIs in his last four games. Berkman is third in the NL in home runs, just two behind Prince Fielder, who leads the league with 22 long balls. The Cardinals’ switch-hitter also ranks fifth in the NL in RBIs and fourth in OBP…Matt Holliday‘s .322 batting average ranks third in the league as well.

2) The starting rotation is coming around too…Over the club’s last four games, starters Kyle Lohse (8-4, 2.78 ERA), Chris Carpenter (3-7, 4.00 ERA), Jaime Garcia (7-3, 3.33 ERA) and Westbrook have all picked up wins for the Cardinals. Lohse, Carpenter and Westbrook have  allowed one earned run or less in each of their last outings, lasting at least five innings.

For those who thought the Cardinals were slumping, well, they were. In fact, they were in the middle of their worst slump of the season. Now, with their 11-15 mark in June behind them, the Cardinals are heating up as the Mid-Summer Classic lingers on the horizon.

Winless stretch nothing new to Cards

Every team goes through its ups and downs throughout the six-month regular season. The St. Louis Cardinals, who are currently riding a seven-game skid heading into Saturday night’s inter-league contest with the Kansas City Royals, have been through struggles similar to the past week and a half before.

Twice the Cardinals suffered an eight-game losing streak en route to becoming World Champions in 2006. It’s obvious the Cardinals are in the worst slump of the season, but having been in identical situations before, this club will no doubt bounce back. All it takes is for one hitter and/or pitcher to get hot and then winning becomes not only contagious, but fun as well. Moods will sway and the clubhouse atmosphere will alter. Smiles will be seen throughout the clubhouse and guys will be enjoying themselves once more.

The current skid: Seven straight losses including being swept at the hands of division rival Milwaukee and National League East opponent Washington have plagued the Cardinals over the past week. Dropping the first of three to the Kansas City Royals of the American League Central divisiont prolonged the skid to a season-high seven games.

Over the drought:

1) The Cardinals have scored four or more runs just three times and are batting a dismal .193 (44 hits, 228 at-bats) over the span. They’ve been shutout twice; a 8-0 loss to the Brewers on June 10, and a 10-0 pounding dealt by the Nationals on Wednesday.

2) The starting pitching has been just as bad, if not worse. Only once over the last seven games has a Cardinals’ starter tossed more than six innings (Chris Carpenter, Friday night versus the Royals: 8 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 7 Ks, 1 BB). As a group, they’ve worked a combined 41 innings and have allowed 29 total runs, 26 of which were earned off 50 hits. The stat that jumps out is the eight home runs allowed by the starting staff.

3) From the offense to the starting pitching, and finally to the bullpen. The relievers have turned in better performances than of late for the Cardinals. Over the skid, the bullpen has worked a gruesome 17 1/3 innings, allowing 18 earned runs off 24 hits, all while surrendering five home runs. Opponents have teed off on the Cardinals’ bullpen.

-As the Cardinals fight their way through the tough times, it’ll be interesting to see how this team responds to more adversity. They’ve already been dealt a Christmas list worth of injuries and now a seven-game losing streak.

Could Romero upgrade Cards bullpen?

Last winter, General Manager John Mozeliak expressed interest in Philadelphia Phillie’s reliever J.C. Romero, but the lefty declined to take the route of free agency, signing a one-year deal with the Phillies for the 2011 season.

Over last couple of weeks, the Cardinals’ bullpen has struggled mightily, showing many signs of wear and tear, and could easily use the services of another veteran arm to keep the rest of the gang on top of their game.

So what does a reliever like Romero bring to the table?

1) He made his Major League debut 12 years ago with the Minnesota Twins and has fluttered around the big leagues since then, making stops in Los Angeles, with the Angels, as well as stints in Boston and Philadelphia. He’s a left-handed specialist. With that said, the Cardinals do have two left-handed specialists already on the active roster, including Trever Miller and Brian Tallet. Both Miller and Tallet have provided aid to the Cardinals’ bullpen respectively. Miller, who has only pitched 13 1/3 innings this season, has appeared in 30 games, allowing just four earned runs off 12 hits. His control has been a minor issue as he’s allowed eight walks to seven strikeouts. Tallet, who recently was activated off the disabled list after suffering a fractured right hand in early May, has shown signs of rust since returning from injury. In just 14 games, Tallet has allowed nine earned runs off 16 hits in 11 1/3 innings this season. A benefit of Tallet’s services includes being able to pitch in different situations, including when games are out of reach, a time when manager Tony La Russa needs one of his relievers to work more than an inning.

2) By acquiring Romero, the Cardinals would add more depth to their flustered gang of relievers. In 2008, Romero appeared in 81 games for the Phillies, but his numbers have diminished since then. In ’10, Romero made an appearance in just 60 games and so far in ’11, the lefty has seen action in just 24 contests before being optioned to the minors.

3) As always, adding another arm to the Cardinals organization means another project for pitching coach Dave Duncan. There’s no doubt that Dunc can remold Romero to his ’08 form. Like I previously stated, Romero brings experience above all other things to the table. As a member of the ’08 World Champion Phillies, Romero was unhittable as the seventh inning shutdown man.

-How Romero’s situation could pan out: According to Jim McCormick of the Philadelphia Sports Daily, “Where and when [Romero] might get the chance to work remains unclear, as the Phillies have three options with the 35-year old lefty; he must got through waivers for 10 days, and if he’s not picked up, then he’ll have an opportunity to stick with the club in the lower levels in the minors. The second option is that there is a MLB club interested and a trade could be worked out, a highly unlikely scenario, and third, he could be outright released by the Phillies.”

The Cardinals will have a week and a half to determine whether Romero’s services would fit their needs in the bullpen. It’s obvious the Cardinals are in need of dire help, but at what potential cost?

Do Reds have enough to hang with Cards, Brewers?

After completing a three-game sweep St. Louis with a 4-3 win on Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers leapfrogged the Cardinals to take sole possession of first place by half a game in the National League Central division.

After the interdivisional showdown between Cardinals and Brewers, two teams who many picked to claim the division crown come October, one question comes to mind: Do the Cincinnati Reds have enough artillery to hang with the Cardinals and Brewers?

Here’s my take:

1) After sweeping the Cardinals in mid-May, the Reds have stumbled, going 13-16 in their past 29 games. The skid includes dropping five straight, including being swept by both Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Despite the tough stretch, the Reds are just 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals and Brewers.

2) The Reds still maintain an explosive offense thanks to reigning MVP Joey Votto, who despite hitting just eight home runs thus far, has accumulated a .331 batting average while driving in 43 runs. You can’t forget about the starting pitching either. Edinson Volquez has looked much better since returning to the big leagues after being demoted for a short minor league assignment. In the past week, Volquez is 1-1, tossing 13 innings, allowing just three earned runs off 12 hits and recording 10 strikeouts to five walks. The run support isn’t where it needs to be when Volquez is on the bump for Cincy, but when it arrives, the 27-year old righty will be a force in the NL.

3) Despite the offensive numbers from Votto and Jay Bruce, who has smacked 17 long balls so far this season, the Reds will need to add another explosive bat to their already dangerous lineup. The services of a veteran hitter such as Padres’ left fielder Ryan Ludwick would have the potential to morph the Reds into the same category as the Cardinals and Brewers.

Having answered the previous question, another one lingers in my mind. Will the NL Central remain a three-horse race until October?

1)  To dismiss any one of these three teams would completely foolish and downright bogus. They feed off each other. Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses.

2) The Brewers, who struggled mightily in April, have suddenly found their groove, especially their starting pitching. Former Royal Zack Greinke is 6-1 in his last eight starts, and the right-hander has begun to mold the Brewers rotation just the way GM Doug Melvin envisioned when he traded for the former All-Star and talented youngster…Another centerpiece of the Brewers rotation came via a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, which sent Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee in exchange for Brett Lawrie, a 2008 first-round selection. The addition of Marcum has done wonders for the Brew Crew so far in 2011. The 6-foot right-hander has recorded a 7-2 mark through 14 starts. In no time, this veteran hurler has gelled and has been a great fit in Milwaukee. His 2.68 ERA ranks seventh best in the NL and .208 opponents batting average against is fourth best. On the contrary, the Brewers, as of today, have one of the most explosive offenses in the game, with soon-to-be free agent Prince Fielder at center stage. Fielder has launched 19 homers, second best in the NL. As a whole, the Brewers own a .255 batting average, which is seventh best in the NL, and they have scored a 300 total runs, fourth best in the NL. If a few more of their bats get going, the Brewers will emerge as a good candidate to win the division.

3) The Reds, as I previously mentioned, have an explosive offense that when hot, every opposing pitcher fears. Through the season’s first 70 games, the Reds have tallied an NL leading 345 runs, 15 more than the second place Cardinals have produced. The offense has gone limp of late, but expect the reigning division champs to warm up in the near future, further tightening the race for the division title.

4) The Cardinals, after having suffered a three-game sweep at the expense of the Brewers at Miller Park last weekend, have dropped two of three games to Washington, who is in the cellar in the NL East. The Cardinals rank in the top six in every major offensive category, including first overall in batting average (.272) and on-base percentage (.345). After a rough first month of the season, the Cardinals sit just a game out of first place in the Central, with a 38-31 record.

*In my mind, there’s no question that this season will remain a three-team race until the final out is recorded. As Hall-of-Fame sportswriter Rick Hummel said;

“The victory totals of the Central contenders may be higher than in some years because of how woeful the Chicago and Houston are at the bottom of the division. There should be many series victories by the contenders over those latter two clubs and, if Pittsburgh’s pitching falters, there could be a good portion of wins to be had at the Pirates’ expense, too.”

-For now, baseball fans, including myself, can just sit back and watch these three clubs battle it out for the rest of the summer with the hope of claiming it all come October.

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.

***

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.