Cardinals win again, pull to 31/2 back of wild card
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The St. Louis Cardinals are making a playoff push by avoiding looking at the big picture.
Allen Craig(notes) hit two homers and drove in three runs, Chris Carpenter gave up eight hits in eight innings, and the Cardinals improved their playoff chances with a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night.
“Common sense is if you allow anything to distract you, then it’s going to take away from your best shot,” St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa said after the Cardinals pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Atlanta Braves in the NL wild-card chase. “So don’t think about anything but the next game we’re going to play. We can’t control what Atlanta does. But if we don’t win a bunch of games, then it’s all irrelevant. We’re just trying to win the game we play in the series we’re playing.”
“We just need to take one day at a time,” Pujols said. “We took today’s game. Flip the page and hopefully come tomorrow and try to win the series.”
St. Louis has 10 games remaining while the Braves (87-66) have nine.
Carpenter (10-9) recorded all but four of his outs by groundballs, and induced three double plays. Only three Phillies reached second and none advanced to third. Carpenter finished with five strikeouts and one walk.
“I was getting ahead in the count, sinking the ball down and away and getting the ball on the ground, which is key for these guys,” Carpenter said. “My stuff was good, commanding down in the strike zone on both sides of the plate with my fastball. When you’re against guys who want to swing, if you make good pitches, you get early outs.”
Chase Utley(notes) had three hits for the Phillies (98-53), who rested just two starters a day after clinching their fifth straight NL East title. First baseman Ryan Howard(notes), who is battling a nagging left ankle injury, and catcher Carlos Ruiz(notes) didn’t start for Philadelphia. Howard is scheduled to have an anti-inflammatory injection in the ankle on Monday.
“Their pitcher pitched good,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He was changing speeds and had a good sinker. The double plays made it difficult to score runs.”
Pujols put the Cardinals up 2-0 in the first inning by launching Cole Hamels’(notes) first pitch into the second deck in left field. The St. Louis slugger had been just 3 for 20 (.150) off Hamels entering the game.
“Pujols hit a fastball that looked like it was inside, but Pujols is Pujols,” Manuel said.
It was the 36th homer for Pujols, who is five RBIs shy of 100 in his quest for his 11th straight season of batting .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs. He went 1 for 4 and his averaged dropped a point to .300.
“I’ve seen it for 11 years,” LaRussa said. “It got everybody excited and Hamels got really, really tough, so it’s a good thing we got him before everything got working.”
St. Louis increased the margin to 4-0 in the sixth on Craig’s two-run shot. Craig twice failed in sacrifice bunt attempts, but he made up for it with a long drive to deep left center. Craig’s homer was the 17th allowed by Hamels this season, which is the most on the heralded Phillies staff.
“He’s hit every place he’s played,” LaRussa said of Craig. “And he’s gotten big hits and those are two big ones.”
Hamels (14-9) was vying to tie his career high with 15 wins, but two bad pitches did him in. Outside of the homers, the left-hander was solid with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Philadelphia remained four victories shy of setting a franchise record for wins in a season.
Carpenter hopes the Cardinals can continue the momentum.
“You continue to play hard, just like we have all year,” he said. “Fortunately, we’ve been pitching well and hitting well. Some things are going well for us at times and we’re pitching and playing well. That’s what you have to do.
“We’ve been playing well and hopefully we can continue it tomorrow and get back home and continue it at home.”
Notes: Right-hander Justin DeFratus, making his major league debut, pitched a scoreless ninth for the Phillies. Pujols has now reached safely in 34 straight games. St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday(notes) missed his fourth straight game with an inflamed tendon on his right middle finger. The Phillies’ crowd of 45,063 was the club’s 199th regular-season sellout and 212th straight overall, counting postseason. .. Philadelphia was shut out for just the sixth time this season. … Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse(notes) (13-8, 3.62) is scheduled to face right-hander Roy Halladay(notes) (18-5, 2.34) at 7:05 Monday night in the finale of the four-game series.