The formula for the St. Louis Cardinals had been working like a charm until yesterday. Solid to excellent starting pitching with timely hits and often times loads of runs, plus some shutdown performances from the bullpen. Against the Pirates last night at PNC Park, the Cardinals could only get 2 of the 3 variables as their bats went silent in a 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in A.J. Burnett‘s season debut.
Yadier Molina and the Cardinals couldn’t solve Pirates starter A.J. Burnett in 2-0 loss. (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE)
Burnett, who was scheduled to start a Double-A game yesterday as part of his rehab assignment was instead activated when Kevin Correia complained of discomfort in his left side. Burnett had been knocked around in his previous minor league appearances and looked to be set of for much of the same after the first three Cardinals hitters of the game reached base.
Rafael Furcal led off the game with a walk. Matt Carpenter followed with a single and Matt Holliday then walked to load the bases. With the heart of the order coming up and no one out the Cardinals had to figure they would get some runs off Burnett. Instead, Carlos Beltran and David Freese went down swinging and Yadier Molina ended the inning with a line out to short. The Redbirds had their opportunity and it would among their last until the eighth inning.
Burnett finished with 7 innings of shutout ball. He allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out seven. He threw an extremely economical 76 pitches especially considering the 24 he tossed in the first inning alone.
In the meantime, the Cardinals received another solid effort from Jake Westbrook. He pitched 6.2 innings allowing two earned runs on seven hits and two walks. He struck out six batters. He recorded 10 ground outs to one fly out. The bullpen was sharp too allowing only a walk in 1.1 innings.
In the eighth the Cardinals got singles from Shane Robinson and Tyler Greene to start the inning against Pirates reliever Juan Cruz. Furcal laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Carpenter and Holliday struck out to end the inning.
In the ninth against Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, the Cards again had two runners on with less than two outs. This time via walks to Freese and Molina. With one out, Erik Komatsu struck out and Robinson finished off the game with a ground out to third base on a nice play by Pedro Alvarez.
The Cardinals fell to 10-5 and lost a game in the standings as the Milwaukee Brewers won their game.
- Both Jon Jay and Skip Schumaker were out of the starting lineup last night but were available to play, in fact Jay pinch-ran for Molina in the ninth.
- According to MLB.com reporter Jenifer Langosch, Allen Craig homered in his rehab assignment with Single-A Palm Beach. He ended up 1-for-4 in the game with a walk.
MY TWO CENTS
For what it’s worth, the Cardinals are allowed to have a night with silent bats. We’ve grown accustomed in this short season to the Redbirds pounding on the opposition early in games and giving their starter the lead. Unfortunately they were unable to take advantage of a rusty Burnett in the first inning last night.
The good news is they received yet another quality start from Jake Westbrook. The Cardinals have 11 quality starts in fifteen games thus far this season. This rotation has been exceptional minus some missteps from Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright.
The bullpen has also been stellar and their pitching as a whole will dictate how much they win throughout the year. The Cardinals offense is among the best in the National League, but pitching is the name of the game. It is good to know that when their bats are quiet the pitching staff has the ability to stifle their opponent just as easily. It is this balance of very good hitting and pitching that will allow the Cardinals to win many games this season.