Walton's Game Observations – Thursday, April 21

Chris Carpenter led the Cardinals over the Cubs, 4-0.

The first-place St. Louis Cardinals concluded their short two-game home series against Chicago Cubs Thursday afternoon on a high note as they won 4-0 at Busch Stadium in front of a national ESPN television audience.

Chris Carpenter faced Ryan Dempster in a second straight pitching duel. This time, the Cards' man was better, tossing a seven-hit, complete-game shutout. Scott Rolen drove in three as both he and Larry Walker homered.

Nomar nor normal
Dusty Baker confirmed that their MRI of Nomar Garciaparra's injury suffered on Wednesday night showed a left groin rupture. Baker said the muscle is torn off the bone and there is separation. At this point, they are going to get multiple opinions before deciding on surgery versus rehabilitation. That will take seven to ten days to determine, but it seems that Nomar will miss two to three months, if not all of the rest of the season. He suffered the injury coming out of the batter's box on a grounder in the third inning.

Edmonds heating up
Jim Edmonds got off to a slow start this season, collecting just three hits in his first 15 at-bats. But over his last six games prior to the Cubs series, he went 6-for-18 with a double, six walks, four home runs and five RBI. He hit home runs in both of the final two games of the Pirates series.

And earns a promotion
As a result, Tony La Russa swapped Edmonds and Scott Rolen in the order on Wednesday and kept them there Thursday. Edmonds went 1-for-4 in his first game in the four-hole this season. Edmonds is familiar enough with batting cleanup. In fact, he appeared there in 44 games last season.

Lefty righty, lefty righty
Before Thursday's game, TLR said he made the switch because he wanted to split the two lefties with John Mabry in the lineup Wednesday. However, La Russa said "Rolen will remain in cleanup spot for most of the season." He'll be back there as soon as he starts to hit or Edmonds slumps.

No cheating on Chris
Chris Carpenter has made 37 consecutive starts without allowing a stolen base and continued that string on Thursday.

Homer happy
With Walker's and Rolen's home runs in the eighth, the Cardinals have now gone deep in ten straight games.

Put the brooms away
The last time the Cubs swept a series in Busch was way back in 1988 and they've never won both games of a two-game series in St. Louis.

Pitching hot
Even before Carpenter's eight shutout innings Thursday, the Cards starters were in a groove. They had registered a 2.30 ERA in their last eight starts over 54-2/3 innings. The overall staff ERA was down to 3.57, fifth lowest in the league.

Wednesday's lineup
The return of the "A-Team". Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Molina, Carpenter.

On to the game…

Cubs first – Two on, none in
Neifi Perez and Corey Patterson each singled with one out. Perez' ball could have been caught by a second baseman with better range. Patterson's ball passed on Eckstein's right. Ditto. Yet, Aramis Ramirez ground into a well-executed double play to quickly end the uprising.

Cards first – A baserunner
Pujols singled to left center with two out, but was stranded.

Cards second – Rolen walks
Unlike the ninth inning Wednesday night, Rolen showed his patience in drawing a leadoff walk. It was just Rolen's third walk of the season. However, he was quickly erased in a double play started by a Grudz grounder.

Cards fourth – Lead taken
Walker drew a free pass to open the inning, but Albert popped out to third. Edmonds reached via an infield single. Ramirez made a nice diving stop on the ball, but Walker hustled into second before the throw. Rolen stroked an RBI double down the left field line. Hollandsworth dropped the ball, but Edmonds was held up at third. The ESPN crew wondered out loud whether Edmonds' knee is bothering him. Grudz swung and badly missed on a ball in the dirt to fan with one out and two runners in scoring position. Sanders was intentionally walked to load the bases for Molina. He flew out as the bottom of the lineup missed a golden opportunity to help stake a decent lead. Cards 1-0.

Cubs fifth – Whew!
After having retired eleven in a row, Carpenter allowed a Derrek Lee single with one out. Hollandsworth hit a rocket into right to put runners on the corners. On a comebacker by the catcher Blanco, Carpenter decided to get the lead runner, Lee, in a rundown between third and home instead of initiating a double play. Runners ended up on second and third with two out. Carpenter induced a routine grounder to second by Dempster to dodge the bullet.

Cards fifth – Eck stranded
Eckstein singled to right with one out as Jocketty was being interviewed and was in the midst of extolling his virtues. However, neither Walker nor Albert could do anything.

Cubs sixth – Carp gets five outs
Perez singled off a curve with one out. Instead of a 3-6 double play started by Pujols, catcher's interference was called on Molina, when his mitt came into contact with Patterson's bat. The error put both runners on base instead of ending the inning. Carpenter then uncorked a wild pitch that Molina tried to backhand and missed. With runners on second and third, Ramirez fanned swinging on an outside curve in the dirt and Burnitz flew out to center.

Cubs seventh – Dempster out
Blanco singled to left with two out in the seventh. Mike Fontenot pinch-hit for Dempster, but was retired. Exploiting the soft underbelly of the Cubs bullpen remains the formula for victory against them in 2005.

Cards eighth – Dusty a dodo
Michael Wuertz relieved Dempster for the seventh and retired all four batters he faced. After Eckstein popped out with one out in the eighth, Mike Remlinger was brought into face Walker. Walker is in the midst of an 0-for-8 stretch, dropping his average to .200. Yet, Walker owned a .444 career mark against Remlinger. What did Dusty know? Apparently, nothing, as Walker slammed his second home run of the year deep to right. Curtain call for Walker and exit for Remlinger. Against Chad Fox, Albert then slammed a one-hopper off the wall in right-center for his second hit of the day, a double. Edmonds fanned. Izzy is up in the bullpen. The Cubs made another mistake in pitching to Rolen with first base open and the slumping Grudz on deck. Rolen made them pay with a two-run shot deep to left. Cards 4-0.

Cubs ninth – Carp superb
Lee singled with two out in the ninth and took second on defensive indifference. Hollandsworth walked before Carpenter fanned Michael Barrett looking to end the game. This was Carpenter's sixth career shutout and only his second as a Cardinal. He had only three three-ball counts and the one ninth-inning walk. His seven hits allowed were all singles.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Friday vs. Astros: Jason Marquis vs. Brandon Duckworth 7:10 pm FSN Midwest
Saturday vs. Astros: Mark Mulder vs. Roger Clemens 1:15 pm WB11
Sunday vs. Astros: Matt Morris vs. Brandon Backe 1:15 pm WB11

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

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