Carpenter outdueled by dominant Lee
Molina breaks up no-no in eighth; Cards held to three hits
CLEVELAND -- The reports of the Cardinals' offensive life were, apparently, greatly exaggerated.
The Redbirds came to Cleveland riding a Florida-born wave of good feelings, having dropped 19 runs on the Marlins in back-to-back wins. They leave the shores of Lake Erie having tallied six runs in three games, and smarting from a 3-0 shutdown at the hands of Cliff Lee and the Indians in the series finale on Sunday night.
Lee stifled St. Louis, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning, as the Indians won the three-game Interleague series. Lee retired 20 batters in a row after two first-inning walks, and he didn't see his bid for history come to an end until Yadier Molina doubled off the wall in right field to lead off the eighth. It was the 22nd time in the past 32 games that the Cardinals were held to three runs or fewer.
"He pitched very well tonight," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "He pounded the strike zone. As the game went on, we got fewer and fewer pitches to hit. He deserved to win."
Lee's brilliance meant that any slipup from Chris Carpenter would be enough to beat the Redbirds, and Carpenter made a couple. He was behind 2-0 before he recorded his first out, thanks to a walk and a Mark DeRosa home run to open the first inning. Four innings later, Kelly Shoppach added a homer.
Carpenter, who looked shaky in the first couple of innings, got much stronger as he went along in a seven-inning outing. He sent down the last eight batters he faced, and 15 of the last 16. Yet for the third time in his past five starts, Carpenter turned in a quality start in a game the Cardinals lost.
"My command was obviously not where it needed to be in the first," Carpenter said. "Any time you walk the leadoff hitter, there's a good chance you can get yourself into some trouble. I left a ball up to DeRosa and he hit it out. Besides that, I felt like I pitched pretty well the rest of the game, except for that one spinning cutter that I threw to the catcher."
Carpenter would have needed to be perfect to match Lee, the reigning American League Cy Young winner. Lee walked two of the first three Cardinals batters, putting him in a first-inning jam. But Ryan Ludwick flied out and Nick Stavinoha grounded into a forceout, stranding the two runners, and the Cards didn't record another baserunner until Molina's double. Even then, the chance was wasted, as Molina was stranded at third base.
"You're just trying to get on base," Molina said. "I tried to get on base and I did. That's part of my job."
As Lee pitched deeper into the game, threatening to throw the first no-hitter against the Cardinals since Fernando Valenzuela in 1990, the Progressive Field crowd grew louder and more engaged. It was in notable contrast to how they treated Lee at the start of the game. His first five pitches were balls, and when he finally threw a strike, the fans gave him a sarcastic cheer.
A second walk in three batters made it look like he might really be in trouble. And then there was no more trouble for the lefty. Lee threw 11 balls in the first inning -- and 12 the rest of the game. He finished with a 93-pitch, three-hit shutout, throwing 70 strikes.
"He threw his fastball a lot," Skip Schumaker said. "He threw it up and down, outside and inside. He didn't just throw it down the middle. I knew he threw a lot of fastballs, but he was locating with it and had his good cutter working. I don't think he threw more than five curveballs. He's a fastball pitcher, and he located really well tonight."
Schumaker was one of several Cardinals who refused to treat Sunday night, or even the six-run weekend, as a sign of the return to the offensive malaise that pervaded the club throughout May and early June. Still, results are results, and six runs in three games is rather short of a powerful display.
"I thought we did better the first game than it showed," Schumaker said. "We hit the ball good. [Tomo] Ohka pitched a good game [on Saturday], but I thought we put together good at-bats. It's just kind of a weird thing going on right now. I think we're pretty close to where we need to be, even though we just got [three-hit]. We have the type of lineup that I really do believe in."
St. Louis remained one-half game behind Milwaukee in the National League Central, missing a chance to take over sole possession of the division's top spot.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.