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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Time, Bullpen Blows Lead; Cardinals Work Late-Inning Magic Once More


First it's the leadoff hitters, then it's the RISP hitting, now it's the bullpen's turn to get into the act. St. Louis scored three runs off of Atlanta's bullpen to pull out a 4-3 victory over the slumping Braves.

The game started out well for Atlanta. While they once again failed to bring a runner in from third base with two out in the second inning, the team finally chased in an opportunity in the third. With the bases loaded, cleanup hitter Brian McCann hit a sacrifice fly to left field and Troy Glaus singled up the middle, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead. They added a run in the fourth inning when Nate McLouth doubled in Melky Cabrera from first, but he was stranded as Escobar walked and was caught off first base after Martin Prado hit a liner that was snagged by Cardinals third baseman David Freese.

The Cardinals' Albert Pujols had three hits on the day, but his first hit in the second inning was an odd one. He hit a drive to left field that he thought was a home run, so he trotted to first base. The ball hit the left-field wall on the fly and Cabrera was able to throw out Pujols at second base.

The Cardinals were kept at bay by Braves starter Tim Hudson for most of the game. The veteran didn't allow a baserunner to score until the sixth when Skip Schumaker scored on a ground ball to short after walking and going to third on a single.

The Braves were held hitless after McLouth's double until the ninth inning, which gave the Cardinals the opportunity to make their move. St. Louis, as a team, scores 21.8% of their runs in the seventh through ninth innings (17 of 78 before yesterday's game). This is where that showed.

Colby Rasmus led off the seventh inning with a line drive home run off of Tim Hudson to right field. After Hudson walked Yadier Molina, Cox brought in Peter Moylan, who hadn't pitched in three days. Molina attempted to steal a base after stutter-stepping against Molyan and was successful when McCann's throw was short. Freese flied out to the warning track and Brendan Ryan struck out, but pinch-hitter Brian Anderson hit a flare to left field that dropped in for a hit, scoring Molina. Moylan walked Schumaker, but then got Ryan Ludwick to ground to short.

The Braves couldn't answer in the eighth despite getting two men on with two out. So Cox brought in Takashi Saito to face Pujols and Matt Holliday. Pujols led off the inning with a double ripped down the third-base line. Holliday flew out to Brooks Conrad (who was in the game as a pinch-runner to Troy Glaus and switched positions with Prado) in short right field and Rasmus was intentionally walked to get to Molina, another right-hander. Molina spoiled the strategy by hitting a ground-rule double to left-center, scoring Pujols with the go-ahead run. Freese grounded to Conrad at second who threw out Rasmus at the plate. Ryan struck out looking to end the inning.

Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin allowed a swinging bunt single by pinch-hitter Matt Diaz to lead off the ninth, but got pinch-hitter Eric Hinske to ground into a double play. Yunel Escobar reached first on a ball hit up the middle that Schumaker could only knock down, but Prado grounded to the second baseman to end the game.

Odds 'N Ends: The Braves' leadoff spot has reached undiscovered territories of epic stinkiness. The team's leadoff hitters are a combined .099/.178/.148 in 90 plate appearances. The main ones, Cabrera (7 games), McLouth (6 games) and Diaz (5 games), are a combined 7-72, with Cabrera only having one double and Diaz with the double and triple in the Rockies game. Even the Braves pitchers are batting better than they are (.131/.197/.213 in 73 PAs), including the same amount of hits (eight)!

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