Game Observations – April 8

Winning ugly, the Cards come back to take the home opener.

In the home opener on Friday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals played a shaky game early-on before coming back to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies by the score of 6-5 on Friday afternoon. Mark Mulder went six innings, allowing nine hits and three walks. Four of the runs were earned.

Offensively, the big bats failed the Cards all day. While David Eckstein was on base five times and Mark Grudzielanek had three hits, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds were 0-for-11. Yet, the Cardinals managed to come back for a most improbable win.

"A" team lineup
Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Grudzielanek, Sanders, Molina, Mulder.

Spring training continues for WB11
Bob Carpenter and Rick Horton struggled in the opening. First, they continue to mispronounce the second baseman's name, even though the correct pronunciation is in the Press Guide. It is on page A-97 guys, "grud-zuh-LAN-nick". Horton called the shortstop "ECK-steen". Then, Carpenter butchered the former Cards second baseman's name all game, calling him "PLASS-ido" instead of "PLAH-si-do". Where's Harry Caray? On second thought, never mind about that.

More booth muffs
I am sorry to have to get on Carpenter, but it is so easy today. He seems to have confused the second baseman and the shortstop as he boldly asserted "Eckstein had a lot of injuries last year". Fact is, Eck played in 142 games. Though he was banged up, he never went on the disabled list. On the other hand, "grood-zuh-LAN-nick" missed half the season, 81 games.

Carpenter struggling
He closed the first inning with this observation, "The first inning in the new ballpark…at least this one…is in the books." Next: "La Russa sitting in the dugout…or standing as he does", as the camera showed TLR standing up, just as he always is. Finally, "That was a big, slow, sleeping curveball."

Cory Lidle almost a Card?
Carpenter and Horton reported that the Cardinals "really tried hard" to sign Phillies starter Cory Lidle in the off-season. Boy, am I glad they didn't succeed. Facing the Cards, Lidle owned a 6.06 ERA and they hit .333 against him. Against all of baseball, he's posted a career 4.52 ERA. Pass.

Busch countdown
There is a new feature in the shape of home plate on the right field fence to count down the number of regular season games in Busch Stadium. I suppose it would screw them up to estimate post-season games, too… A special person gets to remove the current number each game at the end of the fifth. Today's was the St. Louis football Cardinals' former #81, Jackie Smith. The players are also wearing a commemorative stadium patch on their left sleeves all season.

I can't take it
Carpenter and Horton are clueless. They not only don't know what they're talking about, but they flaunt it. Their reader email question of the day was why scorers list the letter "K" backward in a scorebook for a strikeout. Neither of them knew that a forward "K" is for a swinging strike and a backward "K" is for a strikeout looking. Hello? Anyone home?

Book signing appearance
Author Buzz Bissinger and Tony La Russa will appear at the Great Hall of the St. Louis Library at 7pm Saturday evening to sign copies of "Three Nights in August".

Guerrero goner
Second baseman Wilton Guerrero was released after never really getting a shot in spring training, then being assigned to minor league camp. To top it off, there was nowhere for him to play in Memphis, anyway.

On to the game…

Shaky start
Jimmy Rollins hit the first pitch of the game for a single. Placido Polanco walked and Bobby Abreu, in the depth of a slump, was almost hit by a pitch before Grudz muffed a sure double play ball to load the bases. Rollins scored on a Pat Burrell sac fly. Eckstein then dropped a Jim Thome grounder and barely got one out at second base. David Bell plated Polanco on a shot past Rolen at third. The second run was unearned. Rolen went to his left, cutting in front of Eck to make sure the third out was recorded. Good idea. Phils 2-0.

Got one back
Eckstein was hit by a pitch leading off the home first before Walker slammed a liner off Thome's glove at first. Both runners were safe and Walker was graciously given a hit. La Russa sent the runners, taking the bat out of Albert's hands. His ground out did avoid a double play at least. Rolen scored Eckstein on a ground out. Edmonds popped out. Phils 2-1.

Stranded
Catcher Mike Lieberthal doubled into the right field corner to start the second. He moved up on a sacrifice for the first out but was stranded at third. Mulder fanned Polanco to end it.

Mini-threat doubled up
Grudz singled to start the home second, but was erased in a Sanders 5-4-3.

More shaky "D" in third
Abreu lined a shot leading off the third that squirted out of Grudz' glove. In the process, the Phils' lead off man reached for the third straight frame. He took second as Mulder bounced a short curve over Molina and moved to third as Thome singled to shallow center. Respect for Edmonds kept Abreu at third for about 30 seconds longer – until a Bell liner straight at Sanders bounced off his glove. It was generously scored a single. On an RBI single by Jason Michaels to right, Pujols cut off the throw, nailing Bell at third. Phils 4-1.

Sunglasses, please
It should also be noted that while in the field, Sanders' sunglasses were perched on top of his cap instead of on his face. Carp and Horton are apologizing about the sun, although they later hinted that wearing his glasses might have helped. Duh. Instead of drilling him, however, they digressed into sunglass-wearing etiquette.

On but not in
Eckstein singled with one out in the home third as Burrell drew boos when he tried to sell the umpires that he caught the one-hopper on the fly. Walker and Pujols were unable to get him home.

Finally a good inning
Mulder retired the #9-#1-#2 batters in order in the fourth.

Two more stranded
Rolen walked to start the fourth. Edmonds almost hit a home run to the right field wall. Grudz collected his second hit of the day on a sharply-hit, first-pitch single to left. But, both never moved up.

More trouble in the fifth
Abreu started the fifth with a double over Edmonds' head and Burrell walked with one out. Michaels singled to right center for the ninth hit of the day. Walker's throw home was dropped by Molina or Abreu would have been out. Phillies 5-1.

Another wasted
Eckstein walked with one out in the fifth, reaching for the third time, one pitch after a Lidle offering went at least one foot behind his back. But, he was stranded again.

One across in the sixth
After Mulder retired the Phils in the sixth, Rolen's tapper led Lidle to fire the ball past Thome into right field. Rolen took second as the ball rolled into right field. Edmonds then drew a walk. Sanders slammed a high and away fastball to deepest center, but Michaels dropped the ball. That allowed Rolen to score and put runners on the corners. Sanders moved up on a weak fly ball by Molina and pinch-hitter Hector Luna flew out to waste the opportunity. Phils 5-2.

One more
Against the reliever Terry Adams, Eckstein led off the seventh with a double down the left field line. Walker singled to put runners on the corners. Ryan Madson came in for Adams and induced Albert to ground into a double play as Eckstein scored. Phils 5-3.

Michaels muff crucial
After Al Reyes pitched the seventh 1-2-3, Michaels and Lieberthal singled to lead off the eighth. However, Michaels was erased on a bonehead play as he tried to take third even though Sanders had the ball right in front of him. On a bunt by the pitcher, Molina threw out Lieberthal at second, as Eckstein was knocked over, but held on to the ball. Nice play.

How did they do that?
The Cardinals broke through in the eighth in a most surprising manner. After consecutive one-out singles by Grudz, Sanders and pinch-hitter John Mabry, Roger Cedeno's pinch-hit sac fly to center scored one. A walk to Eckstein re-loaded the sacks and ended Madson's day. Then, two more walks with the bases loaded to Walker and Pujols by reliever Aaron Fultz brought in the tying and eventual winning runs. Cards 6-5.

Izzy time = nail biting time
In the ninth, the lead-off man, Polanco reached via a walk before Izzy fanned Abreu. Walker made a nice try at a diving catch on a foul ball before Burrell singled and was replaced by a pinch runner, Tomas Perez. Duncan came out to visit before Izzy threw a wild pitch to move the two runners up. As a result, Thome was intentionally passed. With the bases loaded and only one out, David Bell popped out before pinch-hitter Kenny Lofton struck out swinging to end the game. Whew!

Weekend action
On Saturday afternoon, Jeff Suppan takes on Phillie Gavin Floyd. Chris Carpenter gets Sunday afternoon's start.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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