Hey, Tony LaRussa knows he has this NL Central thing wrapped up, and he's not gonna burn out his top guns with the playoffs starting to sneak into sight - especially against the sad sack Pirates.
Ross Ohlendorf took full advantage of the absence of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday - heck, the Cards even sat Yadier Molina - by spinning an eight inning, four hit gem. He struck out eleven, walked one, and lowered his ERA to 3.97, throwing 103 pitches, with an amazing 77 of them strikes.
The only run Ohlendorf gave up was unearned, manufactured thanks to a single, balk, tag-up, and an Andy LaRoche boot.
He was so dominant that in the seventh he threw what's known as an "Immaculate Inning," striking out the side on nine pitches. The Big O is the 43rd MLB pitcher in history to get one.
But it didn't get him a win. At least he didn't get the loss. After Pittsburgh left the bases juiced in the ninth, La Russa decided to quit playing around, and had Sir Albert pinch hit.
He did what he does, which in this case was to ship a belt-high 1-2 Matt Capps heater over the middle of the plate into the bullpen. Two strike mistakes, especially to Pujols in a tie game, are absolutely inexplicable.
Holliday came up to bat later that inning, but he could only manage a single. Oh, the Bucs made it interesting, getting Andrew McCutchen to third base with two away in the tenth. But as the Pirate fortunes have gone, Lastings Milledge was called out on a pitch wide of the dish. C' est la vie. Good teams get the breaks; bad ones get broke.
The Pirate sticks, after scoring six times against Adam Wainwright last night, were held to six hits this evening. They grounded out eighteen times, and a lot of those were off fastballs; that needs addressed. You can't be beating heaters into the ground and expect to score many runs.
The inability to drive a pitch - especially with Mitch Boggs, not Wainwright or Chris Carpenter on the hill - led directly to the team's season-high ninth straight loss, 2-1, in front of 27,071 PNC die hards.
-- Indy's Player of the Year awards went to: RHP Daniel McCutchen (Most Valuable Player; 13-6, 3.47 ERA), OF Jose Tabata (Rookie of the Year; .286/3/10), C Erik Kratz (Defensive Player of the Year), and Chris Bootcheck (Henry Smock Relief Pitcher of the Year; 3-2-20, 3.38 ERA).
-- Altoona named Pedro Alvarez (.333/13/39 in 60 games) the team's 2009 MVP. he was also chosen as the Eastern League's Player of the Month. RHP Yoslan Herrera (11-1, 3.23 ERA in 23 outings) was the Curve Pitcher of the Year.
-- C Tony Sanchez and OF Starling Marte were sent up a step to Lynchburg from West Virginia to join in the upcoming Carolina League playoffs. Sanchez, 21, hit .316/7/46 in 41 games. Marte, 20, had a line of .312/3/34 with 24 steals in 54 games.
-- Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet throws a little love at Lynchburg SS Chase d'Arnaud's this week. They say he shows "surprising pop and good instincts on the bases with 30 steals in 38 tries." Maybe there is life after Jack Wilson.