Game Observations – Opening Day

Opening day action from Houston.

In Game One of the 2005 season, the defending National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Wild Card Houston Astros by a score of 7-3 at Minute Maid Park Tuesday night. Chris Carpenter outpitched Roy Oswalt for the decision. Jason Isringhausen collected the save.

On the offensive side, every starter other than Yadier Molina and Carpenter hit safely as the team totaled eleven hits. Larry Walker led the way with three, including a solo home run. Jim Edmonds (four RBI) and Reggie Sanders (two RBI) also went deep.

Lineup as expected
Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Grudzielanek, Sanders, Molina, Carpenter.

Stros shills
As I want to work my way into Hungo this year, I instead selected Bill Brown, Larry Dierker and Greg Lucas, who were on the call for the Astros television network.

Road opener unusual
This is just the second time in the last eight seasons that the Cardinals opened the regular season on the road. The last time was in Colorado in 2001 in a game they lost 8-0. The Astros were awarded with their fifth consecutive opener at home.

Opening day history
The opener has not been all that kind to the Redbirds. Coming into Tuesday night, the team is 51-60-2 overall, but are 1-0 vs. Houston. The Cards whipped up on Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan that day, 14-2. The Cards' road opener tally is 17-32-2. On the other hand, the Astros were 22-21 in openers.

2004 recap
The Astros won the season series by a 10-8 margin, but frankly the September wins meant far more to Houston than St. Louis. Of course, when it did matter, the Cardinals won the NL Championship, four games to three.

Carp honored twice
This was Carpenter's his second career opening day start. His first was when then-manager Buck Martinez named him to start for Toronto in 2002. Carp had a no-decision against the Boston Red Sox.

Three for Roy
His opposite number, Roy Oswalt, was starting his third consecutive opener for Houston.

B&B still open for business
Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are celebrating their 15th year together on the Astros, which is the longest streak in professional sports. In fact, this is Biggio's 17th opening day with Houston.

Ankiel reportedly clears waivers
Baseball Prospectus says that Rick Ankiel cleared waivers. After being released, he is a free agent, but is expected to sign with Springfield, says the report.

Long running short act
David Eckstein is just the fourth opening day Cardinals shortstop in 24 years, following Ozzie Smith, Royce Clayton and Edgar Renteria.

Love for JimEd's glove
The Astros telecast showed Edmonds great respect as they replayed his diving catch in deep left center in Game Seven of the NLCS against Brad Ausmus. Even though I've seen it many times, it was still great to do it again.

Better than Coors
The ‘Stros boys also were awed by the Cardinals offense. I liked their comparison made against the Rockies; as in, "the Cardinals offense was so good last season, they outperformed the Rockies, who played half of their games in a launching pad". Sounds good to me.

Oswalt owned Cards
In his last four decisions against the Cardinals, Roy Oswalt came in with a 4-0 record and a 1.59 ERA. He also had two no-decisions. That streak didn't last long, however…

On to the game…

Small ball and a big fly mean three
The Cardinals scored right away as Walker singled up the middle past ancient second baseman Craig Biggio. He just slid into second base ahead of the throw as Rolen ground to deep short. Both runners scored as Astro killer Jim Edmonds slapped an outside pitch into the left field seats. Edmonds came into the game with a career mark of .310 with eight home runs and 23 RBI in 41 Minute Maid contests. Cards 3-0.

Sanders bailed out
Biggio singled with one out in the bottom of the first and could have taken second had he known Reggie Sanders would bobble the ball. As it turned out, Jeff Bagwell ground into a tailor-made double play on the very next pitch to end the inning.

Rolen owns home second
Leading off the second, Morgan Ensberg hit a shot between third and short. Rolen dove to his left and threw to first in time beat Ensberg to the bag. The Astros broadcasters gushed with praise, calling Rolen "a third baseman with shortstop range". Jason Lane doubled past third into the left field corner on a hanging curve with two out, but was stranded.

Eck gets on base
Eckstein hit a full-count fister over second base to start the third just as Dierker was scoffing at his on-base percentage and wondering out loud if he could hold the leadoff job all season. Way to show him, Eck! Albert beat out a single as the Astros third sacker Ensberg tried to get a double play instead of the sure out. Both the throw and the relay were late, but Rolen ground into a double play to end the threat.

Firsts for Willy
#8 hitter Willy Taveras singled to start the home third. It was his first career hit. Taveras was sacrificed to second, moved to third on a ground out and scored on a Biggio single. Cards 3-1.

Six by sixth
After several very quiet innings, Albert singled between short and third to lead off the sixth. Rolen doubled him to third as his hot shot handcuffed his opposite number Ensberg. Edmonds plated Albert on a sac fly as Rolen also moved up. Like Edmonds earlier, Sanders also went the other way for his home run, a two run shot to right. There was audible booing from the home crowd. Cards 6-1.

Seven by seventh
When former ineffective Cardinal pitcher Russ Springer was given the ball, I knew it would be good for the hitters. Walker came through with a home run with two out in the seventh to make it seven runs for the Redbirds. The Astros fans threw the ball back onto the field. So what? Their team is down by a half-dozen!

Carp looked sharp
Carpenter got the night off after completing seven masterful innings. He allowed just the one run on four hits. He walked none and fanned two, retiring the last 13 Astros he faced. 63 of his 97 pitches were strikes.

Reyes roughed up
Former Cardinal outfielder and pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro doubled into the right field corner off Al Reyes with two out in the eighth. Adam Everett walked before Biggio stroked his third hit of the day, a double high off the wall that just eluded Sanders as both runners scored. Exit Reyes and enter Julian Tavarez and So Taguchi on a double switch. Cards 7-3.

No phone for Julian
Tavarez walked Bagwell as Biggio stole third base. Ray King began to heat it up in the pen, but he wasn't needed then as Tavarez fanned Ensberg looking to escape. Cards 7-3.

King gives Izzy save op
King was called on to pitch the ninth. Ausmus walked and Tavares doubled with two out. Jason Isringhausen came in via another double switch, this one with John Mabry. King managed to turn this into a save opportunity for Izzy before leaving. Izzy walked the bases loaded for Adam Everett, who ground out 6-4 on the first pitch to end the game.

Wednesday's preview
In his brief career, Jason Marquis has struggled against Houston, with a 1-2 record and a 7.11 career ERA against them. But, he was better in 2004 with a 1-1, 4.50 mark, so the trend is in the right direction. He takes on Andy Pettitte.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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