New-look lineup lifts Cards, Carpenter

New-look lineup lifts Cards, Carpenter

ST. LOUIS -- By nearly any reasonable measure, the two best lineups in the National League belong to the Phillies and Dodgers. After four days of head-to-head comparisons, the Cardinals believe the elite group is now a threesome.

The additions of three players, and the resurgence of another, have provided St. Louis with depth and potency in the starting nine that it hasn't seen in a few years. And on Monday, that lineup churned out a 6-1 win against the Dodgers, who have consistently been the NL's best team this year.

"I think it's a very good lineup," said Matt Holliday, the newest and biggest addition. "There's a lot of tough outs. There's no easy spots in the lineup. And I think that's what we're looking for -- tough outs, good at-bats, keep grinding on the pitcher. We just played the Phillies, and that's what they really do well and that's what we need to do, is to grind on pitchers and make them work and take advantage of mistakes."

Holliday's first-inning RBI double gave the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish. He was joined by fellow new additions Julio Lugo and Mark DeRosa, as well as the surging Rick Ankiel, in providing the offense to back Chris Carpenter. Brendan Ryan's two-run double capped the scoring on a festive night at Busch Stadium.

It was the first home game for the newest Cardinals, Holliday and Lugo, who were acquired in separate trades last week. For DeRosa, who homered in the seventh inning, it was the first home base hit and RBI. And for Ankiel, who was batting .213 and slugging .356 when the Cardinals began the weeklong road trip from which they just returned, it was the continuation of a welcome rebirth.

To put it all in another light, the Cardinals scored six runs without Albert Pujols or Ryan Ludwick being involved in any of them.

"They're a lot deeper and a lot more dangerous, no question," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre.

The offensive outburst meant that Carpenter avoided the fate that has befallen him too many times already this season. Unlike some prior nights in 2009, Carpenter pitched well enough to win, and he actually did win. In fact, he really wasn't at his sharpest, despite a pitching line that fits right in with nearly any of his finer showings this year.

"My command was kind of sloppy tonight with everything," he said. "But I was able to make good pitches when I had to make good pitches, get the double plays, get big outs when we had to get big outs. I kept my team in the game long enough to get to their bullpen and we ended up scoring some runs late."

As much from his offense, Carpenter benefited greatly from the defense behind him on Monday. The Cardinals turned four double plays behind the right-hander, and Ludwick made a pair of highlight plays in right field in the fourth inning. He made a diving catch to rob Casey Blake, then secured a James Loney drive that went all the way to the wall. In an inning where Los Angeles loaded the bases but didn't score, the two catches both represented pivotal moments.

"You can't speak enough about the quality of our defense tonight," Carpenter said. "It was a well-played ballgame all around, but defensively and offensively we were really good."

The Cardinals, who remained a half-game behind the Cubs in the NL Central, battled but didn't manage a great deal against Dodgers starter Randy Wolf, but they did make Wolf work hard enough that he was lifted after six innings. They put a runner on base in every inning against Wolf, highlighted by Holliday's double in the first and Lugo's RBI single in the second. And when the starter came out, the Cards went to town.

DeRosa went deep against James McDonald. With one out, Holliday reached on an error, then Yadier Molina drew a two-out walk. Ankiel's RBI single made it 4-1 and Ryan doubled home the last two runs for breathing room. The Redbirds burst forth for four runs in an inning in which Pujols singled but was thrown out trying to stretch it and Ludwick flied out.

It's a different-looking team than it was a few weeks ago.

"There's no room to breathe," DeRosa said. "It's the same with the Dodger team. They have Matt Kemp batting eighth hitting .320. With [Holliday] coming in, it just allows the lineup to lengthen so much. Luddy in the five hole can hurt you, Rick in the six hole can hurt you, Yadi, it just deepens the lineup to where the pitcher doesn't have room to breathe. And at any point during the game, you can battle off two or three runs."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.