Walton's Game Observations – Sunday, April 17

Brian Walton's daily column on the game and much, much more…

The first place St. Louis Cardinals swept their road series against Milwaukee as they defeated the Brewers 3-2 Sunday afternoon. Jason Marquis opposed Victor Santos in what turned into a pitcher's duel. Marquis tossed eight innings of three-hit ball, retiring 18 hitters in a row from the third through the eighth. Scott Rolen had his second straight three-hit day, with two RBI, including the winning home run in the ninth. Jason Isringhausen collected the save.

Santos liked his Cards up
Santos made his first start of the season Sunday. However, in five previous career games against the Cardinals, he registered a stellar 2.25 ERA, fanning eight in 16 innings. His overall major league ERA was 5.17, however.

More chances for the broom
The Redbirds achieved their first three-game sweep over Milwaukee since March 31 –April 3, 2003 in St. Louis. The last time the Cards swept the Brewers in three games at Milwaukee was back in September, 2002. The teams will meet 13 more times this season.

TLR milestone
Sunday's win was Tony La Russa's 800th as the Cardinals' manager. He currently ranks third in Cardinals' managerial wins all-time and is just 23 victories short of tying Whitey Herzog for the second-most wins as a Cardinals skipper.

Solid D
Early fears about a dropoff in defense have yet to come to pass. Coming into Sunday's game, Cardinals' fielders have committed just three errors this season, second in the majors behind Cincinnati.

Eck and Grudz on top
Hitting in the top two spots in the order, David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek reached base in five of ten plate appearances in Saturday's game. Eckstein came into Sunday's game with a .300 average, including hits in six of nine games and he has reached base in all but one game this season with a .462 on-base percentage.

King back
After missing several games to go to Arizona to attend to a personal matter, Ray King rejoined the Cardinals for Sunday's game.

The lineup
Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Grudzielanek, Mabry (left), Molina plus Marquis.

On to the game…

Brewers first – Clark clocks one
Leadoff hitter Brady Clark continues his hot hitting when he slammed a home run that bounced off the top of the left field wall. Mabry would have had a shot to catch it, if he had gotten back to the wall sooner. It was Marquis' first home run allowed this season after giving up 26 long balls in 32 starts last season. Lyle Overbay walked with one out, but was stranded. It is Milwaukee's first lead of the series. Brewers 1-0.

Brewers second - Miller at Miller
Damian Miller slapped a 3-0 fastball past Rolen for a lead off double. He moved to third on a ground out and scored as Albert made a two-base fielding error on an easy grounder by J.J. Hardy. In another first, it was Albert's initial error this season. Hardy took third on a grounder, but Marquis fanned Clark to minimize the damage. Brewers 2-0.

Brewers third – Edmonds saves a run and more
For the third inning in a row, the Brewers' leadoff man slammed an extra-base hit. Junior Spivey's double went over Mabry's head. Next, Edmonds made a defensive gem as he dove on the warning track to haul in Lyle Overbay's shot to deep center. Surprisingly, Spivey did not tag up and take third. It didn't matter as he was stranded, anyway. Edmonds' play was not only the play of the game, but also its turning point.

Cards fourth – Rolen RBI
Albert collected the Cards' initial hit, a ball through the hole, with one out and moved up on a wild pitch. He scored on Rolen's sharp single to left. Brewers 2-1.

Cards sixth – Shaky Brewer defense
With two out, Pujols hit a ball in the same place his single went two innings before. But, this time, Hardy got to the ball and made a nice throw from his knees. Pujols just made it ahead of the ball, but seemed to come down hard on his heel. Rolen hit a ball to short center, which Clark dropped. Oquendo sent Albert home, but then stopped him because Pujols was spending too much time watching the play instead of watching Oquendo. However, the throw into the infield got away from Overbay, allowing Albert to score anyway. Rolen took third during the miscues but was stranded. Tie 2-2.

Cardinals eighth – nothing doing
Not surprisingly for him, La Russa allowed Marquis to hit leading off the eighth. He has been pitching very well, but it signals a lack of confidence in the bullpen, implies Rick Horton. Defensive replacement Chris Magruder hauled in Walker's blast off the top of the right field wall to end the inning.

Milwaukee eighth – Marquis masterful
Marquis is rolling, having retired everyone in two full passes through the lineup - eighteen Brewers in a row. Many of them were weak groundouts.

Cardinals ninth – Rolen is the man
Closer Mike Adams served up a solo home run to Scott Rolen with one out in the ninth. Rolen's third hit of the day hooked just inside the left field foul pole. Cards 3-2.

Brewers ninth – Izzy time
After saves in each of the first two games of the series, Jason Isringhausen again collected the save, his fifth on the season. But, he made it interesting by walking the lead off man and one other with two out, too, before getting out of the mess.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Monday at Pittsburgh: Mark Mulder vs. Dave Williams 7:05 pm FSN Midwest
Tuesday at Pittsburgh: Matt Morris vs. Josh Fogg 7:05 pm FSN Midwest
Wednesday vs. Cubs: Jeff Suppan vs. TBA 6:10pm FSN Midwest and ESPN
Thursday vs. Cubs: Chris Carpenter vs. TBA 12:10pm FSN Midwest and ESPN

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

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