Walton's Game Observations – Tuesday, April 26

Albert Pujols' four RBI led the Cardinals over the Brewers by the score of 5-3 Tuesday night.

The first-place St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in the delayed first of their three-game series 5-3 Tuesday evening at a damp Busch Stadium. The Cardinals have won five in a row and ten of eleven and lead the NL Central by four games over the Cubs and Reds.

Jeff Suppan took the mound for the Redbirds against lefty Doug Davis, the Brewers' #2 starter. Suppan struggled on the night, lasting just one batter into the sixth inning, but he left the game with the lead. Though Suppan felt squeezed by the home plate umpire, the bullpen allowed just one run in four innings of work. Jason Isringhausen left the game with a side injury in the ninth and Randy Flores collected the save. It was the second of his career and his first since 2002, when he was with Texas.

On the hitting side of the contest, Albert Pujols starred. He had three hits, including two two-run doubles. Pujols also shone with the glove and on the bases in a fine all-around performance. Almost MVP-like. Larry Walker reached base all five times.

Musical Brewers starters
Original Brewers starter Ben Sheets had been hospitalized Friday and Saturday with an inflamed nerve in his inner ear. While Sheets has been discharged and has rejoined his teammates, Wes Obermueller was tabbed to make the start as a result. But, since Monday's game was rained out, Doug Davis got the Tuesday start as originally planned. When all was said and done, essentially the rain enabled the Brew Crew to skip Sheets' turn.

Pujols coming on
Albert Pujols is finally heating up. Coming into Monday's contest, he has hit safely in his last six games. During that period, Albert is 9-for-25 (.360) with three doubles, two home runs and six RBI. He has reached base 25 consecutive times dating back to last season.

Patience with Morris
Tony La Russa showed admirable restraint with Matt Morris on Sunday, removing him from the game after five innings. True, Morris had a 7-2 lead at the time and had thrown 91 pitches to that point. But, one of the runs should have been unearned on the Bagwell double that should have been caught by Walker or Edmonds in the third.

Journell still not ready?
Jim Journell entered Sunday's game in a low-pressure situation and immediately created a mess that became high-pressure. It was only one outing, but not what the 27-year-old righty needed to earn some meaningful playing time.

Friday night lights
I already noted the forecasted matchup between former Oakland A's stars Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson Friday night in Atlanta. There is another marquee matchup from the previous generation planned that same night in Houston. In that game, Greg Maddux faces Roger Clemens, who was bested by Mulder on Saturday, despite a ridiculous ERA of just 0.321 this season.

Suppan and Cardinals Care giving back
This afternoon, Jeff Suppan made an announcement about a strikeout donation program he is sponsoring and Cardinals Care distributed $292,990 to 133 children's organizations. The Cardinals Care grants bring the total dollars distributed since it's inception in 1997 to over $8 million.

Brewers-Cards history
The Cardinals swept Milwaukee in three games at Miller Park ten days ago, starting off the 16 2004 games against the Brewers right. Overall, the Cardinals hold a 66-43 all-time advantage over the Brewers. The Cardinals went 5-5 against the Brewers at Busch Stadium last season and are 31-20 versus the Brewers all-time there.

Mulder honored
Mark Mulder earned National League Player-of-the-Week honors as a result of his 10-inning shutout on Saturday, that huge 1-0 win against the Astros and future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens. Mulder began the week against Pittsburgh and allowed no earned runs in eight innings there. The combined line for his two starts was 18 IP, 7 H, 1R, 0ER, 3BB, 7K.

More iron for Edmonds, Rolen
Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen received their 2004 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards in a pre-game ceremony. It was Edmonds' seventh Gold Glove and Rolen's sixth.

Polanco ready to come back?
With outfielders Pat Burrell and Kenny Lofton nursing injuries for the Phillies, Placido Polanco made the first outfield start of his major league career on Monday night. Now that Polanco has proven his versatility, if he can just pitch an inning or two, he will be completely ready to return to the Cardinals!

Kiko grounded
Former Cardinals reliever Kiko Calero hasn't pitched in a week for the Oakland A's due to tendinitis in his elbow. At this point, he is not expected to have to go onto the disabled list, but that could change based on workouts. Calero has yet to allow a run this season in seven innings pitched.

Enough of Schilling's ankle, already
As if we didn't get enough of it during the ALCS and World Series, "Curt's Pitch for ALS" is announcing the Curt Schilling Bobble-Ankle Doll, with the proceeds going to that charity. All the details here: Bobble-ankle link

Mark your calendars - WWU
The tenth annual Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up will be held on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, January 14-16, 2006 at the Millennium Hotel. Cardinals Care announced Tuesday that a record amount of money had been raised at the 2005 Winter Warm-Up. The first-ever sell-out generated over $700,000 for grants to area children's agencies, to support the Redbird Rookies program, and to build youth ball fields.

20 straight ahead
The Cardinals will not have a day off again until Monday, May 16, a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

Say what, Hungo?
"He has a chance to be a very special player" said Hungo about So Taguchi when he entered the game in the seventh.

Tuesday's lineup
The "A Team" starts for the third day in a row and was also primed to go Monday. The only exception is the return of Scott Rolen to the cleanup spot and Jim Edmonds back to #5. Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Molina and Suppan.

On to the game…

Brewers first – Bad sign?
As Suppan was shown on camera warming up, in order to catch one of Molina's return throws, Jeff was pulled completely off the mound. Let's hope the leadoff man stays off base… Geoff Jenkins singled past Grudz with two out, but Suppan fanned Carlos Lee.

Cards first – Keeping the pressure on
Eckstein drew a walk to start the inning right. Walker was hit in the shoulder with a pitch to bring up Albert. Third baseman Russell Branyan was unable to handle Pujols' shot. As the ball rolled into the corner, Lee didn't pick it up cleanly. Both runners scored and Albert cruised into second base. First baseman Lyle Overbay reached over the tarp to chase a fly ball and cut open his chin on a short plexiglass screen. 12 stitches were required to close the wound. On the catch, Pujols tagged and took third. Jeff Cirillo took over at first base for Overbay. Edmonds hit a easy chopper to short, but Pujols expertly deked him and drew the throw to third. Pujols made it just before the ball as Edmonds reached safely. Sanders whiffed on a sac fly opportunity before Grudz walked on four pitches to load the bases. Molina weakly fanned on three pitches. Two runs on one hit. Very efficient. Cards 2-0.

Brewers second – Hardy boy plates two
Cirillo walked to lead off the inning and Spivey followed with a single over Eckstein that would have been caught if Eck was a bit taller. Suppan walked Branyan to bring up the #8 hitter, the light-hitting J.J. Hardy. He singled to drive home two before Suppan retired the next three in order. Tie 2-2.

Brewers third – Yadi's aim is true
Cirillo walked with two out, but Molina threw him out trying to steal second base.

Cards third – Two runners wasted
Rolen coaxed a walk to start, but Edmonds fanned looking on a pitch that he leaned away from. Edmonds then complained to the home plate umpire, Bruce Dreckman. I wish he'd just shut up. He's better than that, but apparently he forgets that fact regularly. Sanders also whiffed, although his was swinging, just like his first at-bat. Grudz was jammed, but got the ball over the shortstop for a base hit. But, Molina lined out to center on a full-count offering.

Brewers fourth – Albert flashes the glove
With Branyan up, Pujols went to his left to get the grounder, fell down, rolled over and scooped the ball overhand to Suppan covering to beat the runner by a hair. A very nice play by Albert.

Cards fourth – Albert flashes the bat
Suppan drew a walk to start as it began to rain. Walker then took a one-out free pass. Pujols cleared the bases with another double into the gap. Unlike the two doubles last weekend which were shaky, both of these were hit with authority. Cards 4-2.

Brewers fifth – Stranded in the rain
Damian Miller stroked a two out single. Jenkins reached on a Pujols fielding error. Suppan needs an out to get an official game as it is raining harder and got it, fanning Lee again.

Brewers sixth – Nice job by Reyes
Cirillo doubled into the left field corner to open the frame. That ended Suppan's night, as Al Reyes came in. Abraham Nunez also came in to play second in a double switch. Spivey advanced the runner, then Reyes fanned Branyan and induced a flyout from Hardy to escape.

Cards sixth – Bases loaded
Walker collected another walk with two out and Albert singled to left. Rolen walked to load them up, but Edmonds ground out to second on a 3-1 count.

Brewers seventh – Gap closed
The pitcher, Wes Obermueller, was allowed to hit and stroked a gapper for a lead off double. If that isn't trouble, I don't know what is. Ray King began to throw and came in with two outs. He allowed an RBI double to right-center by Geoff Jenkins. The preceding pitch was a borderline call that went against King. Julian Tavarez and So Taguchi came into the game and Tavarez retired Lee to finally end the inning. Hungo wondered out loud if Edmonds wasn't taken out in part due to his beef with the home plate umpire. Sad, if true. Cards 4-3.

Cards seventh – So, Nunez is Wise
So Taguchi worked a walk with one out and drew a throw over to first. Obermueller's throw got away, allowing So to take second. Matt Wise was given the ball. Nunez collected the RBI on a two-out single. Cards 5-3.

Cards eighth – Bases full, none in
Larry Walker singled off former Cardinal Ricky Botallico. Rolen singled off second baseman Junior Spivey – literally – as the ball struck him when he dove for it. John Mabry flied out pinch-hitting for Tavarez, who got all four of his hitters out. Sanders was then hit on the hand with a pitch to load the bases, but stayed in to run the bases before leaving for Mabry on defense in the ninth.

Brewers ninth – Izzy hurt
After an out and a walk, Jason Isringhausen left the game with an injury to his side. Randy Flores got the save after allowing a hit along with inducing a double play for the last two outs.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Wednesday vs. Brewers: Chris Carpenter vs. Victor Santos 12:10 pm FSN Midwest
Thursday vs. Brewers: Jason Marquis vs. Chris Capuano 1:10 pm FSN Midwest
Friday vs. Braves: Mark Mulder vs. Tim Hudson 6:35 pm FSN Midwest/WTBS
Saturday vs. Braves: Matt Morris vs. John Thomson 6:05 pm WB11/WTBS
Sunday vs. Braves: Jeff Suppan vs. Horacio Ramirez 12:05 pm WB11/WTBS

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

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