Cincinnati Sweep Sends St. Louis Sobbing

On Sunday afternoon the Reds completed a series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals behind a solid pitching performance from Travis Wood and timely hitting. With the win, the Reds moved to 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. The Reds handed Chris Carpenter a loss for the first time since 2006, despite some less than stellar relief pitching in the 9th.

The Game

The Cardinals took an early 2-0 lead after Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina hit back-to-back HRs in the 2nd. It appeared as though Travis Wood was on track for one of his bad outtings. However, the two homers proved to be the only runs the Cardinals were able to manage off the young lefty. Wood battled through 6 innings, giving up 7 hits and a walk, despite not having his best stuff. Perhaps the turning point was the top of the 3rd, when Wood rebounded to retire the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup in order.

The Reds’ offense got started in the bottom of the 3rd, when Ramon Hernandez belted his 6th HR of the season over the right field fence. Hernandez was 2-for-4 on the day and has improved his average to .349 on the season.  The Reds added two more in the 4th with hits from Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen. In the 6th, Rolen was able to drive in another run with a triple, after Brandon Phillips reached base on a fielding error by Gold Glover Albert Pujols.

The score stood at 4-2 in favor of the Reds in the 7th, when the Reds blew the game wide open. Miguel Cairo led off the 7th with a walk and was followed by a single by Drew Stubbs. After a sacrifice bunt from Paul Janish, the Cardinals intentionally walked Joey Votto. The Cardinals attempted the same strategy on Saturday, with Phillips hitting behind Votto. On both occasions, Phillips made them pay. Sunday was no different, as Phillips chased Carpenter from the game with a 2-run double. After a pitching change, Bruce followed suite with a 2-run double of his own. Chris Heisey added a solo HR in the 8th to make the score 9-2 heading to the 9th.

The Drama

That’s when things got interesting. Dusty Baker turned to Aroldis Chapman in the 9th. Chapman has struggled with control lately (understatement). In his two previous outtings, Chapman failed to retire a batter. Chapman continued to struggle on Sunday. He walked to the first two batters he faced, then recorded an out on a hard-hit ball to center. Chapman walked the next two batters, giving the Cardinals their first run since the 2nd. Dusty had finally seen enough, as he turned to Nick Massett. Ryan Theriot doubled of Massett, plating 2 more runs.  Baker called on Cordero to save the game. Cordero gave up a 2-run double to the first batter he faced. Cordero then hit Pujols with an 0-2 fastball, which put the tying run on base for the National League’s leading hitter, Matt Holliday. But Cordero was able to induce a ground out from Holliday and then struck out Lance Berkman to end the game.

After the final out, Cordero was visibly upset, jawing with someone in the Cardinals’ dugout. As it turns out, Cordero was yelling at Cardinals back-up catcher Gerald Laird. Apparently Laird took exception to the pitch that hit Pujols.

As Cordero told Mark Sheldon, hitting Pujols intentionally would be a terrible strategy in that situation – “Gerald Laird was all loud in the dugout. He was yelling at me and pointing at me and saying a whole bunch of stuff. I will say it again. Out of all those guys they have there, those great hitters and great players, Gerald Laird did not even play and he’s the one yelling at me because I hit Pujols 0-2…0-2. I wasn’t trying to hit him. I’ve got to face Holliday next. They can take the lead with one swing. Lance Berkman is one of the great hitters in the National League. All I know is [Laird] was loud and saying something to me. I said something back to him.”

The painfully predictable Carpenter excuse

Of course, anyone who follows baseball knows that the Cardinals are notorious for complaining when they don’t end up on the smiling side of the scoreboard. The crying from the Cardinals wasn’t limited to the pitch that hit Pujols. Noted cry-baby Chris Carpenter blamed everything except himself for his poor performance.

According to the St. Louis Dispatch, “A poorly conditioned mound bothered Chris Carpenter in the first inning. Lingering smoke from fireworks celebrating Ramon Hernandez’ home run irritated him in the third.”

I have just one question: have the Cardinals ever lost because the other team played better? No, there’s always an excuse…

Follow me on twitter @ckfreshnes