Tonight was a night to celebrate the amazing Dodger debut of knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, but Rick Ankiel didn't get the memo, instead crushing a pitch almost into the parking lot turning a 2-1 Dodger lead into a 3-2 lead and eventual win for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals seem to have the Dodgers number so far this season, winning four of five games, a troubling sign given that these two teams appear to be headed for an NLDS matchup.
Haeger and his fluttering knuckleball were magnificent, entering the seventh inning allowing just four hits and one run, a booming home run to El Hombre, Albert Pujols. After retiring Matt Holliday to begin the seventh, a knuckleball got away and hit Ryan Ludwick, just before Ankiel's bomb into the right field pavilion. Haeger otherwise had magnificent control tonight, walking nobody and throwing 61 of his 80 pitches for strikes.
Haeger qualified for a quality start, in that he allowed three or fewer earned runs (3) in six or more innings (7). This was just the third quality start thrown by a Dodger outside of the Big Four (Billingsley, Kershaw, Wolf, and Kuroda) this season, joining Eric Stults (shutout of the Giants) and Jason Schmidt (six scoreless innings in Atlanta).
The Dodgers threatened in the first inning off Chris Carpenter, loading the bases with one out. However, they were only able to score one run as Andre Ethier was thrown out at third base by a tremendous throw by Ludwick, ending the inning after Rafael Furcal scored. Carpenter was great, allowing just two runs in eight innings, while striking out eight. The Cardinal starting pitchers have owned the Dodgers in their five matchups this season:
Look at the plus side: the Dodgers finally forced a Cardinal starter to have an ERA over 2.00!
Chad Billingsley returns to action tomorrow night, taking the mound for the first time in ten days, against Mitchell Boggs, rated the 14th-best prospect of the Cardinals in the 2009 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
WP - Chris Carpenter (13-3): 8 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 intentional walk, 8 strikeouts
LP - Charlie Haeger (0-1): 7 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 strikeouts
Sv - Ryan Franklin (30): two batters, two flyouts