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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

MLB Roundup: Brewers fall, Mariners walk off

*Cardinals rout Brewers *

MILWAUKEE — It was this kind of night for the Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers on the brightest stage in the goofy-foot National League Central:

The leadoff batter in both the top and bottom of the first inning greeted the respective starting pitchers, Randy Wolf and Jake Westbrook, with home runs.

Less than 60 feet from a third-inning inside-the-park home run, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun tripped, fell, attempted to rise and fell again before getting tagged out in a brief rundown.

There was more — much more — in a free-for-all that the Cardinals ultimately claimed, 8-3, before a crowd of 38,073 on Wednesday night.

A relative lightning bolt, Westbrook’s fourth-inning grand slam outshone his pitching as centerpiece of a game that chipped away a little of the Brewers’ aura of invulnerability at Miller Park.
“It’s a little warm,” quipped manager Tony La Russa, “but the hotness is still over there.”

After five innings, the Cardinals’ bullpen provided order to a game that often crossed the line separating strange from madcap. The Cardinals exited with their fifth win in six games. To win with a pitcher’s grand slam one night after winning without scoring an earned run changed the vibe in a previously sullen clubhouse.

“It’s pretty special,” Westbrook said. “Just to go back and say you hit a grand slam in the big leagues is a lot of fun.”

The Cardinals finished a 15-13 August by becoming only the second team this season to hand the Brewers back-to-back home losses. With 26 games remaining, consecutive wins have returned the Cardinals to 8 1/2 games behind the Brewers. No one is sure where this may lead. But the last 48 hours have allowed a fleeting sense of hope. Completing a three-game sweep this afternoon would create momentum missing for more than a month.

“I think it’s a real good example of how tough this club is,” La Russa said. “We’ve had some stuff go against us, some of it our own making, but I never saw the club come out the next day and give in. I think we did a good job this month because it was discouraging. Milwaukee wouldn’t lose and we were mugging games.”

Angels done in by a Carp shot

SEATTLE — It was like throwing a drowning man a life vest — filled with lead weights.

Angels right-hander Dan Haren outpitched Felix Hernandez for seven innings but left with two outs in the eighth. He could only watch as Scott Downs, an island of reliability in the Angels’ unreliable relief corps, left a fastball over the heart of the plate to Mike Carp who drilled it off the centerfield wall for a two-run double that gave the Mariners a 2-1 victory over the Angels Wednesday night.

With the loss, the Angels wasted an opportunity to shave a game off the Rangers’ lead in the AL West. The Rangers also lost Wednesday night, 4-1 to the Rays, and remain 3 ½ games up on the Angels.

“We saw that. We saw that they lost,” Angels DH Bobby Abreu said. “We have to take advantage of that. Find a way to do it. But we couldn’t get it done tonight.”

In the process, they added to a season-long legacy of late losses. Wednesday was the Angels’ league-leading 22nd blown save, their 25th one-run defeat and the 18th time this season they have lost after being tied or holding the lead through seven innings.

It was the second time in this series Carp had gutted an Angels reliever. His two-run home run off Hisanori Takahashi in the eighth inning of a tie game on Monday sent the Angels to another defeat.

“There’s a lot of numbers that are negative. But this isn’t the time for that,” Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said. “Those guys (in the bullpen) helped get us here. Yeah, they’ve had some tough little stretches but everybody does. It’s going down to the wire now. We’re going to need those guys.”

Cliff Lee continues mastery as Phillies blank Reds again

CINCINNATI — Twenty-eight days, Charlie Manuel said. We’ve got 28 days to figure it all out. And it’s true.

Even after Wednesday night’s 3-0 win over the Reds, which improved the Phillies’ best-in-the-majors record to 86-46 and kept their NL East lead at 7 ½ games over Atlanta, Manuel and his team still had 30 regular-season games left to play.

But on a night like Wednesday night, as Cliff Lee sizzled in a half-empty ballpark that less than a year ago was burning with postseason excitement, it was hard not to let your mind wander elsewhere.

Like, say, Oct. 1. That’s when the Phillies, barring a huge collapse, will open up the postseason at Citizens Bank Park against Arizona, unless the Diamondbacks can’t hang on to their lead over San Francisco in the National League West.

Who will take the mound that day is far less clear. The smart money is on Roy Halladay, because as Manuel has said time and again, he’s the ace, the horse, the leader of the best rotation in baseball. And it would be a hard choice to argue. All Halladay did in last year’s NL Division Series opener was pitch a no-hitter. This year, he is a strong candidate to repeat as the NL Cy Young Award winner.

But as you watched Lee turn in his latest display of dominance, it was hard not to wonder. It was the rare night where even a splendid final line of 8 2/3 scoreless innings, seven strikeouts and eight baserunners did not do him justice. Three of those baserunners reached with two outs in the ninth inning to ruin Lee’s shot at recording his major league-leading sixth shutout of the season. After Lee allowed a double to Joey Votto and a walk to Jay Bruce and then hit Miguel Cairo with his 117th pitch of the night, Manuel decided to call on Ryan Madson for his 25th save.

“It’s rare to pitch 8 2/3 innings and not allow a run and not feel good about it when it’s over,” Lee said.

White Sox’ Pierzynski expected back behind plate Friday

CHICAGO — A.J. Pierzynski likely will return Friday night against the Tigers in Detroit in large part because of his career .274 batting average against 20-game winner Justin Verlander.

But how the catching duties will be handled for the remainder of the season remains a question for manager Ozzie Guillen as Tyler Flowers’ handling of the pitching staff and timely hitting could earn him no worse than a chunk of playing time while the Sox are mathematically in contention for the American League Central title.

Guillen paused long before answering, sort of, how the catching duties will be handled when Pierzynski is expected to be activated Friday from the 15-day disabled list. He was batting .285 before suffering a hairline fracture of his left wrist Aug. 12 and had been hot, going 11-for-18 with three doubles and one home run before his injury.

“Tyler has been great, very good,” Guillen said Wednesday. “When A.J. gets here, we’ll figure out how we play him. I don’t want to say A.J. is not playing, but we really like, I really like the way Tyler is behind the plate right now.”

The Sox are 11-7 in games Flowers has started and veteran pitchers Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy have praised his work.

Flowers has started the last 13 games without showing wear. He has managed to stay strong since his July 10 promotion from Triple-A Charlotte.

“It’s hard to duplicate a nine-inning game, but I did a lot of extra work with Chief (bullpen catcher Mark Salas) keeping my arm ready in case something like this happened,” said Flowers, who hasn’t had a break since Donny Lucy started on Aug. 17. “I did a lot of blocking drills. And throughout the game, I’m trying to catch everyone.

“I (figured I should) get my legs burning a bit in case something happens. I did as much as I could without actually catching in a game. But the game is much more demanding than anything you can try to duplicate.”

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