Game Observations - April 6

La Russa "Julianes" the Cards, 4-1

In game two of the series and of the 2005 regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Houston Astros by a 4-1 score at Minute Maid Park Wednesday afternoon. Jason Marquis opposed Andy Pettitte. Both pitched well, especially Pettitte, but neither starter figured in the decision.

I honestly thought we could go more than two games into the season before I began to second-guess La Russa again. No such luck.

Overall, the Astros pounded out 15 hits while the Cards managed just four, but still, the game was tied into the eighth. Inexplicably, even though Julian Tavarez was having trouble throwing strikes, Tony La Russa had no one warming up. Mike Lamb's two-run triple and Willy Taveras' RBI single off Tavarez "Julianed" the Cards this day.

Jim a Juicer
Not that way. I mean that Jim Edmonds crushes the ball every time he plays at Minute Maid Park. His three-run first-inning home run Tuesday night was his ninth career shot at Minute Maid, ranking fourth all-time among opposing players (Sammy Sosa-15, Albert Pujols-12, Aramis Ramirez-12). Edmonds is a lifetime .313 (46-for-147) batter at Minute Maid with 27 RBI and overall, he's registered a .330 (87-for-264) career batting mark against the Astros with 22 home runs and 63 RBI. That is Edmonds' most RBI against any team. His deep fly Tuesday night was his third career shot on Opening Day and his first since 1997 when he was still with the Angels.

Who are these guys?
Accentuating the difference between Houston and St. Louis' off-seasons, the Astros started two rookies in the outfield in both games, leftfielder Luke Scott and centerfielder Willy Taveras. The last time that happened for them was in 2002 with shortstop Adam Everett and third baseman Morgan Ensberg. The Astros last started two rookie outfielders back in 1986.

That stupid train
Am I the only one who thinks the addition of a fake steam train pulling a coal car full of fake oranges the size of basketballs is ridiculous? This is the kind of "forced fun" at the ballpark that just drives me crazy.

Upcoming Cardinals Action
Thu, Apr 7 Off day workout at Busch Stadium 12 noon Media only
Fri, Apr 8 vs. Phils Mark Mulder vs. Cory Lidle 3:15 p.m KPLR WB11
Sat, Apr 9 vs. Phils Jeff Suppan vs. Brett Myers 1:15 p.m. FSN Midwest
Sun, Apr 10 vs. Phils Chris Carpenter vs. Jon Lieber 1:15 p.m. KPLR WB11

On to the game…

Astros broadcasters again
Bill Brown and Larry Dierker were again at the mike for FSN Houston, which was the game selected by Two nights in a row were too many.

First flies by
Rolen was busy at third, making two assists, as both teams went down in order in the first.

Lineup surprise or not
Against the lefty Andy Pettitte, Mark Grudzielanek was moved up to the five hole ahead of Jim Edmonds. After looking at the numbers, it was clear why La Russa did what he did. Grudz came in 5-for-12 against Pettitte, while Edmonds was just 1-for-23. With the exception of the pitcher, the starting lineup remained the same: Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Rolen, Grudz, Edmonds, Sanders, Molina and Marquis.

Marquis labors in second
Ensberg became the first baserunner of the day as he singled leading off the second. On the next pitch, a failed hit-and-run by Luke Scott enabled Molina to easily nail Ensberg at second. Jason Lane was jammed, but dropped a single into short center with two out. Catcher Brad Ausmus singled on a full-count pitch to put runners at the corners. Marquis fanned Willy Taveras to escape the jam, but had to throw 30 pitches in the inning after just 12 in the first.

Two-out run in fourth
Biggio doubled off the left field wall with two out in the fourth. Sanders played the carom perfectly and threw a bullet to Grudz, who collided with Biggio. The runner was barely safe. Marquis went 3-0, then 3-2 on Bagwell before Bags singled past short for the RBI. Ensberg singled to Eckstein's left for another single. Larry Dierker said he thought Edgar Renteria should have made the play. Astros 1-0.

Celebrating a hit
Pettitte was perfect through three, but Eck singled leading off the fourth. But, Walker fanned for the second time. Albert singled between third and short before Rolen fanned and Grudz ground out. The Cards worked Pettitte for 24 pitches that inning. Likely the game will be turned over to both bullpens before the sixth is out.

Well, duh
Dierker was marveling over Pujols' first four years of accomplishments. One of the most stupid understatements ever was what we heard next. "At this point, you can't say it's beginner's luck."

1-6-3 frame
Lane hit a shot off Marquis' right foot opening the home fourth. The ball caromed to Eckstein, who threw to first. The out was recorded 1-6-3. Marquis seemed uninjured. Ausmus singled to right with one out for the seventh Astros hit. However, Marquis' 78th pitch of the night was a comebacker that turned into another 1-6-3, this time for a pair of outs to end the frame.

Sanders rubs ‘Stros wrong way
With one out in the fifth, Reggie Sanders creamed a cut fastball to left field for his second home run in two games. Since returning from his appendectomy, Sanders has been long-ball happy, with two home runs and two doubles last week. Tie 1-1.

1.3 seconds
Biggio took a free pass with two out in the home fifth. Dierker had Marquis on the stopwatch, as he did Carpenter the night before. He complimented both pitchers for working quickly. His rule of thumb is if the pitcher can get the ball home in 1.3 seconds or less, the runner should not risk trying to steal. Biggio was stranded at first by Bagwell.

Eck on again
Leading off this third inning of the night in the sixth, Eckstein drilled an 0-2 pitch into center for another single. He took second on a one-out wild pitch, but became part of a hard-luck double play as Albert lined a full-count offering to short.

Marquis escapes again
Ensberg singled for the third time in the game opening the home sixth. Despite all the hits, eight so far, this was just the second fly ball to the outfield this day, an indication that Marquis' sinker is working. Al Reyes began to throw in the bullpen. Lane singled again with one out before Ausmus ground into a 6-4-3 twin killing.

Qualling Cards
Chad Qualls, who was hammered by the Cards in the NLCS, took over in the seventh for Pettitte. However, he retired six in a row and eventually got the win.

Taveras and Tavarez
Bill Pulsipher's Cardinals debut was mixed. He allowed a hit to Willy Taveras opening the seventh, and collected an out as Orlando Palmeiro sac bunted. Julian Tavarez and Abraham Nunez came in on a double switch. So, Tavarez was watching Taveras on base. Tavarez allowed a hit to Everett before collecting the final two outs. Initially, Rolen took a tough error on Everett's ball. An inning later, the official scorer changed his ruling to a hit.

Lamb cracks game open
Ensberg walked off Tavarez to open the eighth. He was almost doubled off as rookie Chris Burke popped a bunt to Tavarez. Lane collected his third hit and the Astros' 12th. Pinch-hitter Mike Lamb coming in brought Dave Duncan to the mound. But, amazingly no one had been warming up. Ray King quickly got up, but it was too late as Lamb stroked a two-run triple to right center on a 2-2 count. Taveras singled on the next pitch to score Lamb. No more Julian, but it was two batters too late. Everett slammed a double down the right field line off King, putting runners on second and third, but they were stranded. Astros 4-1.

Too little, too late
Against closer Brad Lidge in the ninth, Eckstein walked, reaching base for a third time. He took second on defensive indifference and third on a wild pitch. But, that was it.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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