The Cardinals' starting pitching woes continued, as Mulder allowed 11 hits and six earned runs in just five innings. On the other side, the Reds' replacement starter looked like Cy Young. Former Anaheim Angel Ramon Ortiz was to get the start, but he was scratched due to a sore hamstring and groin. Reliever Belisle was tabbed to replace him in the spot start. You'd never know the guy came in with a career 5.56 ERA, as he allowed just four hits in five innings.
Sanders hot again early
Through Wednesday, Reggie Sanders has slammed four home runs, collected eight RBI and is batting .286 to start the season. Reggie also had his best month of the season last April, when he hit .321 with eight home runs and 22 RBI.
Anemic team hitting overall
Overall, through six games, the Cardinals' aggregate batting average of .222 was dead last in the National League. Pujols and Rolen went 1-for-9 on the day Wednesday. Rolen stranded three and is hitting just .143 on the season.
With a travel day Thursday, Tony La Russa kept in the big guns, with a lineup identical to that from Wednesday night. Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Molina plus Mulder.
On to the game…
Utilityman Ryan Freel walked to start the game. A stolen base threat, Mulder kept him close, which was wise. Subsequently, Freel was erased in a 4-6-3 double play even though Grudz had a bit of trouble getting the ball out of his glove, leaving Eckstein vulnerable on the turn.
Another twin killing
Joe Randa singled to lead off the second, but was erased in a 6-4-3 twin killing this time. However, while Wily Mo Pena singled off Mulder's glove hand, he was stranded. Mulder did not appear to be injured.
With one out in the second, Edmonds hit his third home run of the season. This one went 386 feet the opposite way deep into the visitors' bullpen. Cards 1-0.
Ryan Freel doubled with two out in the third. Fan interference may have kept the ball out of the right field corner and a possible triple. However, Freel scored anyway on an RBI single on an 0-2 count by D'Angelo Jimenez. Edmonds had a shot at throwing Jimenez out at the plate, but got his feet tangled up in the damp grass. Mulder continued to miss his spots as Sean Casey singled to deep short and Randa stroked an RBI single on a pitch up for the fourth consecutive hit and the sixth in three innings. Reds 2-1.
Molina received a large cheer when he singled off the third baseman's glove leading off the third inning. It was Molina's first safety of the season. But, the fun didn't last long as Mulder ground into a double play.
Cards uprising quelled
Usually a reliever, Belisle got in and out of trouble in his fourth inning of work. Walker took a free pass to start. Albert singled to right on a 1-2 count, but the ball was hit so low and hard that Walker wasn't sure if the ball wasn't going to be caught. He barely made it into second. Joe Valentine began to throw in the Reds' pen, but wasn't needed as Belisle retired the next three.
More two-out damage
After Mulder had retired six in a row, Jimenez singled to center with two out in the fifth. Casey followed with a double down the left field line. Randa collected his second RBI and third hit as his ball shot off Mulder's glove. Austin Kearns hammered a 2-0 offering the other way into the Cardinals bullpen for a three-run homer. Wily Mo Pena doubled for the fifth consecutive Cincinnati hit and 11th of the game as boos from the Busch crowd were audible. Dave Duncan made a mound appearance before the third out was collected. Reds 6-1.
Mabry's double single
John Mabry pinch-hit for Mulder, and doubled into a single with two out in the home fifth. However, because of his sore hamstring, Mabry slowly took first, where he was replaced by pinch-runner Jason Marquis, who was stranded.
Walks = runs
Walker lived up to his name again in the sixth leading off against David Weathers. He moved up on a ball that got away from the catcher. After Edmonds drew a walk, Sanders went deep to the opposite field to right for a three-run line drive home run. Reds 6-4.
Flores blooms and fades
Randy Flores was given the ball to start the sixth. He retired all three men he faced, striking out two. Jimenez singled to start the seventh, but Walker quickly cut the ball off, saving a base. However, after Casey walked, Flores was yanked.
Julian Tavarez and Abraham Nunez (at second) entered the game via a double switch with two on and none out in the seventh. A quick strikeout and a double play ended the rally in a hurry.
Eckstein slapped a broken-bat single into right with two out in the seventh, but Walker fanned on a full-count pitch.
Running out of chances
Edmonds doubled with two out in the eighth. He had a bit of trouble getting out of the box and had to slide headfirst into second base. Sanders couldn't bring him home.
Freel singled off King to lead off the ninth. On a tailor-made double play grounder by Jimenez, Nunez bobbled Eckstein's soft toss and was taken out on a hard slide by Freel. Play was halted several minutes while Nunez was attended to before he left the field. It may be a shoulder injury. Hector Luna replaced him. Casey dropped a single in front of a diving Edmonds to load the bases. Due to no fault of his own, King was pulled with no out.
Nice job, Izzy
Jason Isringhausen was asked to get the final three outs with the bases loaded. He hadn't appeared since Sunday. So Taguchi came in to play left field in a double switch. After a nice force play at home, pinch-hitter Ken Griffey was induced into a 4-6-3 twin killing to finish Izzy's escape act.
The Graves shift
Reds' closer Danny Graves, the Baby-faced Assassin, walked fearsome So Taguchi to start the bottom of the ninth the right way. Roger Cedeno hit for Molina and flew out to center. Luna singled between short and third, as Hungo oddly remarked "At least they are fighting to the end." Thanks for the encouragement, Al. Eckstein hit a full-count double over Dunn's head in left that was correctly ruled a ground-rule double as it bounced over the wall and back. It was a terrible break, as Luna would have scored the tying run otherwise. Runners at the corners with one out led to Walker being intentionally walked to get to … Pujols. The gamble paid off for the Reds, as Pujols' shot to third was turned into a game-ending double play by Randa and Casey. Reds 6-5.
Upcoming action (times CDT)
Thursday: Off Day
Friday at Milwaukee: Jeff Suppan vs. Ben Sheets 7:05 pm FSN Midwest
Saturday at Milwaukee: Chris Carpenter vs. Doug Davis 1:05 pm WB11
Sunday at Milwaukee: Jason Marquis vs. Victor Santos 1:05 pm WB11
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.