Walton's Game Observations – Tuesday, April 19

Matt Morris starred as the Cards defeated the Pirates, 7-1.

The first-place St. Louis Cardinals ended their short two-game road series against Pittsburgh as they defeated the Pirates 7-1 Tuesday night in an again nearly-empty PNC Park. They finished the road trip with a 5-0 record.

Albert Pujols had three hits, including a pair of doubles and two RBI and Abraham Nunez reached base five times. The first three Cards hitters to walk scored and three of the runs were unearned as the Pirates played pathetic defense. The Cards bullpen logged three more scoreless innings.

But, the star of the game was Matt Morris in his first start of the season. He allowed a single run in six innings of work and looked very good in doing so.

How nervous was Morris?
Morris came into the game with an 85 pitch limit on the night. During the first inning, Hungo pointed out that Morris would be nervous, as "the butterflies are pumping in there". OK, Al, if you say so.

Nine Monday is unique
Believe it or not, the nine runs the Cards scored Monday night in the ninth inning were the most runs scored in an inning since they plated ten in the eighth on August 19, 2003, against these same Pirates. Hard to believe that the 2004 team never scored as many as nine runs in a single frame, but it is true.

Toy Cannon honored
The Houston Astros have announced they will retire former outfielder Jimmy Wynn's number on July 8. The three-time All-Star patrolled the Astrodome outfield for 11 seasons, from 1963-73.

Hot Shots vs. Hungo's Ballpark Grill?
Dan McLaughlin is the star of Hot Shots' omnipresent commercials this season. Absent is Hungo, who opened up his own sports bar near the stadium. I can't give you the address, since when I did a Yahoo yellow pages search in St. Louis, all I got back was two Grand Blvd. businesses. One is Hung Hing Chop Suey and the other is Hung Laundry. Honest.

Homer crazy?
The Cardinals have hit at least one home run in each of the last eight games, including Tuesday night. The team record for consecutive games with a home run is 18, set in April, 2000.

Albert Pittsburgh record-holder
Albert Pujols has hit 14 home runs at PNC Park, most among any opposing player.

Sanders milestone near
Reggie Sanders' double in the third inning was the 299th of his long and distinguished major league career.

Cali cut
To make room for the activation of Morris, left-handed reliever Carmen Cali was sent down to Memphis (Triple-A). Cali struck out one in a scoreless inning; his only action since being called up when Bill Pulsipher went onto the disabled list at the start of the season.

Pens staying at home
The Cardinals and Pirates bullpens are tied for the fewest home runs given up this season, one.

Cards own Bucs
On August 19 of last season, the Pirates prevailed at Busch. Since then, the Pirates had lost eight consecutive games to the Cardinals, coming into Tuesday's game. Make that nine.

Tonight's lineup
Grudz, Walker, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Sanders, Nunez (ss), Molina and Morris. David Eckstein was given his first night of the season off. He had reached base in nine of his 11 games played with a .438 on-base percentage. With Eck out, Pujols and Rolen are the only Cards who have appeared in every game. Nunez was given a start against his longtime former teammates.

On to the game…

Cards first - Mini threat
Albert doubled with two out, improving his career mark against Fogg to 10-for-21. Craig Wilson ran out of room in left field as Pujols' ball dropped on or very near the line. Rolen gave a Fogg offering a ride to deepest left center, but Jason Bay hauled it in to end the inning.

Pirates first – Two on, none in
Matt Lawton singled between first and second to start the game for the Bucs and stole second base with one out. With two outs, Morris gave Rob Mackowiak a free pass, but fanned Jack Wilson to escape.

Cards second – Good guys on top
Edmonds led off the second with a home run the other way to left center just like the night before. Nunez added a one-out single. Fogg made a throwing error on an easy play against Molina, allowing runners on the corners. Grudz took a two-out free pass to load the bases for Walker. His clutch single to right scored two. Albert blooped a ball to left, as Craig Wilson broke back instead of in. The ball dropped in front of him, scoring another as Albert took second. The few Pirates fans in attendance booed loudly. Rolen flew out to center with two runs in scoring position. Cards 4-0.

Pirates second – Morris gives one back quickly
Daryle Ward hammered a home run deep into the right field bleachers on the first pitch of the inning. Cards 4-1.

Cards third – Nunez helps ex-mates look bad
Sanders doubled high off the right field scoreboard with one out. Nunez singled to right, and took second as Lawton had trouble getting the ball in, as his high throw missed the cut off man. With two runners in scoring position and one out, Molina was again not asked to squeeze. Instead, he fanned looking. Not so good, Yadi. Morris weakly ended it on a comebacker.

Cards fourth – More shabby Pirates defense
After a Grudz walk, first baseman Ward made a fielding error on Walker's bouncer as both runners were safe. Grudz moved up on a Pujols fly ball. On a sure double play, Fogg fielded Rolen's grounder, but threw to the second baseman instead of the shortstop, who was covering. As a result, Grudz scored. Edmonds just missed another homer as he made the third out. Cards 5-1.

Pirates fourth – K's coming
Ward and Bobby Hill each singled with two out. They were only the third and fourth hits given up by Morris. He then struck out his fifth batter of the game, getting Humberto Cota for the third out.

Cards fifth – More Nunez and Molina mischief
Nunez walked with one out and scored on a double down the left field line by Molina. Nice to see him hit the ball. Cards 6-1.

Pirates sixth – Mo finishes up nicely
Matt Morris retired the last seven men he faced. Through six, he struck out seven, allowed just four hits and walked just one. His only run allowed was the solo homer to Ward. A very impressive showing. Morris threw just 71 pitches, but I like the decision to get him out of the game on a high note. I've seen La Russa ride his starters too long too many times.

Cards seventh – Another RISP wasted
Sanders and Nunez singled with one out against Brian Meadows. It was the latter's third safety of the evening. However, Molina fanned and pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno made the third out.

Pirates seventh – Catcher triples
Ray King pitched the seventh. With two outs, catcher Humberto Cota stroked a triple into right center. He had just come off the disabled list. Fortunately, Cota was stranded there at third.

Cards eighth – Albert adds one>
Against Ryan Vogelsong, Grudz led off with a single and Walker did his thing (walked). Albert collected his second RBI of the night on his third hit, a single. Rolen's fly ball moved Walker to third. Edmonds took a walk to load the bases, but seemed to irritate his knee while in the box. Hope he is ok. On a full count, Sanders ground into a double play. Cards 7-1.

Pirates eighth – Reyes K-K-K
Al Reyes came in to start the frame and all he did was strike out all three Pirates batters he faced.

Cards ninth – Nunez and Molina again
Nunez hit his fourth single and reached base for the fifth time on the night. Molina singled, but they were left on base.

Pirates ninth - Flores fine
Randy Flores got a chance to get in some work and retired all three in order.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Wednesday vs. Cubs: Jeff Suppan vs. Carlos Zambrano 6:10pm FSN Midwest and ESPN2
Thursday vs. Cubs: Chris Carpenter vs. Ryan Dempster 12:10pm FSN Midwest and ESPN
Friday vs. Astros: Jason Marquis vs. TBA 7:10 pm FSN Midwest
Saturday vs. Astros: Mark Mulder vs. TBA 1:15 pm WB11
Sunday vs. Astros: Matt Morris vs. TBA 1:15 pm WB11

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

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