Game No. 21 Recap: Cardinals 5, Braves 3
Take away one dreadful inning and Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Javier Vazquez would have had yet another gem.
The dreaded fifth inning turned into a nightmare awfully quick for the right-hander, as he surrendered four runs on six hits in the frame, propelling the Cardinals (15-7) to the series win.
Vazquez (2-2) allowed four run-scoring singles in the inning, including base-hits by pitcher Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel. He gave up six hits in the inning — all singles — but managed to retire eight of the last nine hitters he faced on the night. He lasted eight innings and gave up nine hits and five earned runs while striking out eight batters.
The only other trouble that Vazquez ran into come in the third when Skip Schumaker connected on a broken-bat RBI single that brought home Brendan Ryan.
The Braves (10-11) offense caught fire early against Wainwright but failed to pick up steam in the ladder innings. Omar Infante (3-for-5) had an RBI single in the second inning and Atlanta added two more in the third when Casey Kotchman (2-for-4) scored on a Colby Rasmus error and Jeff Francoeur (2-for-5) touched home on a wild pitch to give the Braves a short-lived 3-1 lead.
Wainwright (3-0), the former Brave, loaded the bases in the fifth on a Jordan Schafer walk, but escaped the jam unscathed when he struck out catcher David Ross.
The 27-year old right hander tosses six innings of three run ball, offering up five walks and two strike outs on a season-high 11 pitches.
With a scheduled off-day on Thursday, Atlanta will open a three-game set with the Houston Astros on Friday at Turner Field at 7:35 p.m. Derek Lowe will take the hill for the Braves.
– Aside from the fifth, Vazquez was up to his usual tricks. The strikeouts and the command were all there tonight, but the singles killed him. What’s even more frustrating is all six hits in the inning were struck so softly. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.
–We all know that fifth inning was the turning point. But the final out of the inning was such a crucial play. Kotchman cutoff Frenchy’s throw home which likely would have beaten Pujols to home plate. Instead, the first baseman threw to third to begin a run down that would eventually lead to the third out. Sure, if Pujols was thrown out it still would have been a one-run game but things could have gone differently.
– The thing that stood out the most tonight was Atlanta’s aggressiveness on the base paths. Schafer stole his first base of the season — the fourth stolen base for the team this season — and manager Bobby Cox implemented at least two hit-and-runs. The Braves are going to need more of this to kickstart the lackluster offense.
– Weird stat of the series: No home runs for either team in all three games. The Braves have allowed the fewest home runs in the NL with 10.
– Other strange stat: Frenchy’s last strike out was 38 at-bats ago. Yes, you read that right — that Jeff Francoeur.
– Second baseman Kelly Johnson was out of the lineup for the second consecutive night and as long as Omar continues to rack the ball, I have no problem with it.