Spoiling a sweep and a brilliant effort from Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals on Sunday, Matt Kemp belted a two-run walk-off home run off St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin to hand the Cardinals a 2-1 loss and salvage the final game of a 3-game series. The blown save was Franklin’s fourth in five opportunities, ballooning his ERA to a hefty 11.57. Kemp’s home run was his second off Franklin already this season, having hit a solo shot off the Cards’ closer on Thursday night.
The Cards’ offense was silenced by Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, who tossed eight shutout innings, surrendering just two hits and striking out eleven. Cardinals’ starter Chris Carpenter did his part to match Billingsley, coming away from Sunday’s contest giving up only five hits in seven innings, while striking out five and walking none. Only one runner made it to third base. After giving up 11 earned runs for a 0-2 record and 5.82 ERA over his first three starts, Sunday was his best outing yet. “I felt like I had good command with my cutter and commanded the fastball on both sides of the plate,” Carpenter said. ”It is a pretty good lineup, and I was able to do pretty well.
The good news is that despite the tough loss on Sunday, the Cards’(8-7) have to be feeling pretty good finishing up a 10-game West Coast swing with a 6-4 record. ”We won the series and really competed well,” Tony LaRussa said. “It is a tough loss, but any time we win a series, it is a good thing.” They return home to Busch Stadium for three games against the Washington Nationals starting Tuesday night. With the exception of Billingsley’s performance on Sunday, the Cardinals offense has really hit their stride. Third baseman David Freese is 15 for his last 30 at the plate and drove in the only run on Sunday, while Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols have found there power strokes. Berkman and Pujols hit two home runs each in Friday Night’s 11-2 drubbing of Los Angeles. The red hot hitting couldn’t come at a better time because after the Nationals come in for three games, the division leading Cincinnati Reds come in to town for three games. The Reds series will prove to be an early measuring stick for St. Louis, with Cincy seemingly the cream of the crop in the National League Central.
Now that Albert Pujols seems to have gotten going after a slow start, the biggest concern for manager Tony LaRussa and St. Louis has to be closer Ryan Franklin. He has started the season blowing four out of five save opportunities, and it won’t be long before fans start to look for a change. Jason Motte would be the clear cut choice as Franklin’s replacement, and has gotten off to another solid start this season. As we’ve seen, LaRussa has alot of confidence in his closer, and most assuredly will give him another, if not many more chances to redeem himself so early in the season. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Motte was the closer before too long, even by the end of the month. It seems like the right choice for now, and for the immediate and long-term future. I know it’s only mid-April, but these losses count just like the losses in August and September. It’s better to stop the bleeding now.
About the Author
Written by Kris Schoembs
Connecticut School of Broadcasting Graduate.