Round 1: Schumaker delivers knockout punch to Reds with grand slam


The hype surrounding the Cardinals-Reds series was like that leading up to a heavyweight title bout. Cincinnati was ready to rock Great American Ball Park in support of the first-place Reds and with high hopes that the Cincy would increase their lead over the Cards in the division.

The first three innings were quick and efficient for both pitchers. Then, the Cardinals bats landed jab after jab on Mike Leake to start the fourth. Jon Jay doubled into the right field corner. Albert Pujols singled to move him to third. Matt Holliday singled in Jay and the Cards were on the board. Boom. Colby Rasmus snuck one up the middle for another single and Pujols came around to score. Boom. Yadier Molina hit a ground ball in the hole for an infield single. The bases were loaded and Leake was on the ropes, holding on for his life in the biggest game of his young career.

Skip Schumaker came to the plate and connected on the first pitch he saw — a changeup. He sent it into the center field seats for a grand slam, a knockout punch. Ka-boom. The buzz in the ball park went from joyful excitement to eery silence with one pitch. Leake was rattled the rest of the night, running off the mound after getting the second out of the inning. He had enough and wanted out. His first big start — a prize fight with Chris Carpenter and the chance to make a statement — ended in a knockout. It was like a bad dream that he couldn’t wake up from as he watched the remainder of the game in the dugout.

The Cardinals scored seven runs in an inning in which 12 Cardinals went to bat. It was all they would need and they breezed through the final five innings for a 7-3 win. Chris Carpenter took care of the rest, going seven innings and giving up two runs and five hits for his 13th win and fourth over Cincinnati this season. He kept the intensity up even with the big lead, showing some frustration with how he ended his night giving up two runs on some bad pitches in the seventh.

Trever Miller and Kyle McClellan mopped things up in the last two innings and the Cardinals walked away with a big win that moves them to within one game of Cincinnati for first place. St. Louis should be feeling confident and ready to keep the pressure on the Reds tomorrow.

St. Louis hopes their rookie fares better on the big stage. Jaime Garcia takes on Johnny Cueto in Round 2.

The big question going into that game:

Can the Reds get back up?