08/13/2002 01:33 am ET
Cards provide a margin for error
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals' pitching staff has received a wondrous new bauble, something it almost doesn't know what to do
with. It's sort of foreign to them, so forgive them while they get used to it. It's margin for error.
Finally, the Redbirds' offense has returned.
Jason Simontacchi dug his mates a three-run, first-inning hole on Monday night, and the rookie right-hander still picked up
the win. Twice St. Louis scored in the top of an inning, then allowed Pittsburgh to score in the bottom of the frame. Steve
Kline gave up a homer to a left-handed hitter for the first time since he joined St. Louis.
And none of it mattered in the end, because the Cardinals' hitters kept putting runs on the board en route to a 10-6 victory
in the opener of their four-game series against the Pirates.
"You sense a little quietness in the dugout when we start off 3-0 behind," said center fielder Jim Edmonds. "We have a pretty
good team, we just hope that we can go out there and play nine innings... We're not gonna be held underneath one or two (runs) like we have for the last two weeks for very long."
Over the last three games, all wins, St. Louis has scored 24 runs. Over their previous 10 games, eight of them losses, the
Cardinals scored 25. St. Louis smacked 16 hits -- nearly all of them hit hard -- to fall one short of a season high. And it
all came after they went nine-up, nine-down in the first three innings.
"It shows you the potential," manager Tony La Russa said. "What did Tino (Martinez) do? He got two big hits. And J.D. (Drew)
in the eighth spot. There are a lot of weapons in our lineup. ... Good pitching will still get us out, but we're kind of
relentless grinding out those tough at-bats and that gives us a chance to break through if somebody makes a mistake."
After Pittsburgh starter Brian Meadows kept Cardinals hitters in check for three innings, Edgar Renteria finally started
something with a one-out single in the fourth. Edmonds followed with a double, putting runners on second and third with one
out. But in an echo of the team's recent misery with runners in scoring position, Albert Pujols popped the first pitch up to
Here we go again? Nope.
The next batter, Scott Rolen, ripped a 1-2 pitch from Meadows 360 feet to left field for his second home run in as many
nights -- and second since his trade from Philadelphia at the end of last month. Like many of his teammates, the All-Star
third baseman found something in Sunday night's 9-0 win and it carried over to Monday.
"I just go out there and try to have a good at-bat. At the end of the season, I'm pretty sure my result is gonna be right where I want it to be."
-- Albert Pujols
"I'd probably be lying if I said it didn't help," Rolen said of his Sunday outburst. "If I had three good at-bats last night
and hit three line drives to the shortstop. You try not to always be after results, but they do help. They take a load off
sometimes. Getting three hits yesterday was helpful."
And getting a three-run homer was helpful to Simontacchi, who snapped a six-game winless streak despite allowing five runs.
"That was huge, no doubt about it," the rookie right-hander said. "I was starting to throw good, and he hit the ball out.
It's tied now, and we're back to square one. First inning. Here we go. Zero-zero game. And I just tried to keep doing what I
had been doing in the last couple innings."
An inning after Rolen tied the game, the heart of the Cardinals order did it again. RBI singles from Renteria and Edmonds
made it 5-3 before Pujols rapped a double to right-center for a four-run lead. Pujols also homered in the eighth, turning an
8-6 St. Louis lead into a 10-6 advantage.
"I've been hitting the ball hard all year long," Pujols said. "I don't even look at any numbers, I don't look at anything. I
just go out there and try to have a good at-bat. At the end of the season I'm pretty sure my result is gonna be right where I want it to be."
It's true -- he has been hitting the ball all year long. Now, his teammates are joining him.
"That's why they put this kind of team together," Edmonds said. "They think that what we have here is good enough to win this
division. So we need to go out there and prove that."
Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. He can be reached at