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23 April 2011

Cards Win As Reds, Phillips Blow Into Town

A foul wind blew into St. Louis Friday afternoon.  And no, it was not the big mouth of Cincinnati Reds 2B Brandon Phillips.  Mother Nature unleashed her fury with devastating tornadoes that damaged Lambert International Airport, and delayed the highly anticipated start of the Cardinals-Reds series.  The game was played amongst the debris.  And now the NL Central is part of the debris as the Redbirds roost alone atop the division - 1/2 game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Forgive me if I sound flippant about the storm sitting cozily in warm weather in Tucson.  My son lives in Ellisville with his mother.  I have friends and family in Maryland Heights, Overland, Florissant, and Hazelwood.  Additionally, my mother still lives in southern Illinois which has not been spared by the recent weather.  I am very concerned about the news.  My prayers go out to the entire area.
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa showed a heapin' helpin' of Hall of Fame cool for playing chicken with the weather.  LaRussa made a last minute decision to start Miguel Batista against the Reds, knowing full well what the forecast portended.  And he was vindicated when the game was delayed six pitches in.  Reds manager stuck with scheduled starter Edinson Volquez, and he was done without throwing a single pitch in the game.   Perhaps Baker knew what he was doing with Volquez, who's given up 6 HR's, 20 hits, and 17 runs in 22.2 innings thus far this season.

When the storm abated and the game resumed, Kyle McClellan also resumed his anticipated start (technically in relief).  With no outs and a runner on second, McClellan escaped the first without damage.  And he continued to perform as he has all year - 6 innings pitched, 2 ER, 7 hits, 3 BB, and 2 K's on 93 pitches.  Actually, it may have been his worst start of the season - if it was indeed a start.

Ryan Theriot is proving himself to be quite the brown-noser, proving Cardinals GM John Mozeliak correct for bringing the former Cub aboard.  Theriot went 3-4 with a double, and scored 2 runs to get the home team to an early lead they never relinquished.  Theriot is now batting .321 as the replacement for light-hitting Brendan Ryan.  Albert Pujols managed 2 RBI's, and the Lance Berkman Fan Club was thrilled as the Big Puma keeps impressing, matching Theriot's line exactly.  Yadier Molina again had one big hit, a two-out RBI single in the fifth that gave the bullpen the space needed to lock down the victory.

Is it fair to lump the job former reliever McClellan did into the body of work the bullpen did tonight?  I don't think so.  Their performance stands alone.  Eduardo Sanchez was called upon in the sixth inning to save K-Mac in a two-on no-out situation.  The rookie showed jitters, throwing two wild pitches that lead to one Red run, but limited the damage and escaped the jam.  Jason Motte worked himself into a jam, giving up two singles in 2/3 of an inning.  He gave way to Mitchell Boggs who went old-school, pitching over an inning to earn his second straight save.

Let us not forget about the man who created the hype of this series and the burgeoning rivalry between the clubs - Brandon Phillips.  He was the one Red to get good wood on a McClellan offering, depositing his second home run of the season into the left-centerfield bleachers in the fifth.  Phillips showed some class by not grandstanding the performance - he hustled his way home on what had to be a satisfying home run trot.  Cardinal Nation hates him, but his antics upped the hype, and has the final two games of the series on national TV - Saturday afternoon on FOX, and the Sunday night game on ESPN. Here's what the Reds All-Star second baseman has to say after tonight's show:

  You can follow him on twitter @DatDudeBP.  Honestly, he's one of the best MLB players to follow. 
We have national TV, national media, controversy, adversarial competitors, and two good divisional teams facing off in late April.  This rivalry is everything the Cards-Cubs should be, it's Yankees-Red Sox for the rest of the nation.  It was an exciting win for the Redbirds tonight.  I can't wait for tomorrow.  I can't wait to see how this drama plays out through the summer.

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