Walton's Game Observations – Wednesday, May 4

The Cardinals defeated the Reds 7-3 Wednesday night.

The first-place St. Louis Cardinals swept the Cincinnati Reds in their midweek series as they prevailed by the score of 7-3 Wednesday evening at the Great American Ball Park. The Cardinals' record is now 18-8 as they lead the division by five games.

Mark Mulder opposed Brandon Claussen. Mulder pitched seven three-hit shutout innings. Claussen was hammered by the Cardinals, as was Redbirds' reliever Carmen Cali, who allowed three runs in the ninth.

Scott Rolen slammed a two-run home run and Mark Grudzielanek had two doubles among his three hits. Especially gratifying was seeing Yadier Molina's two hits and two RBI. So Taguchi also plated two.

About that Mulder trade
The two major leaguers traded to the Oakland A's for Mulder were slapped around by the Texas Rangers Wednesday night. Dan Haren gave up seven runs in 3-2/3 innings and Kiko Calero allowed five runs while getting just one out. Both their season ERAs are now over five. Mulder's is 2.93.

The mediocre NL Central?
As I finish this story, I note that the Cubs and Brewers plus Pirates and Astros are playing each other and all have three runs in the eighth inning. They are also all below .500 on the season. It could be a long summer for these guys.

Small consolation
After reviewing the video of Ken Griffey Jr.'s sixth inning home run Monday night, the umpiring crew agreed that they made the wrong call and that it should have been ruled a ground-rule double, after all. No kidding. The ball clearly hit off the yellow line. Chris Carpenter was charged with the run, but maybe the umps will give him future considerations. Right. BTW, do you suppose Dale Scott reviewed his game tapes from Saturday and will make a similar admission? About as likely as Griffey's homer being reversed, I figure.

Buck stinks?
From a USA Today story: "MLB began a pilot program last season with a handful of clubs meant to encourage TV-friendly measures such as arranging for more managers to be miked and letting viewers e-mail announcers on-air. Fox announcer Joe Buck, who also calls games for the St. Louis Cardinals, who were part of the pilot program, shared the common theme of many of his viewer e-mails: "You (stink)." Maybe he got Hungo's emails by mistake? Either that, or I missed Buck starting to sing on the air again… USA Today link

Pulse pounded
In case you missed it, rehabbing left-handed reliever Bill Pulsipher (hamstring) gave up five runs, four of which were earned, in 1-2/3 innings Monday for Triple-A Memphis. At this rate, he won't be back in St. Louis soon, despite two scoreless innings in his first two appearances there.

Clooney hawking Bud
Have you noticed the voice of actor George Clooney in the ubiquitous Budweiser commercials during Cardinals broadcasts? Sorry ladies, it's just his voice.

What a win is worth
A win Wednesday night would give the Cardinals their first three-game series sweep at Cincinnati since July, 1998. A win would also ensure a winning record on the six-game road trip. Coming in, the Cards are 3-2 since leaving home last Thursday, including losing their first road series of the season this past weekend in Atlanta, two games to one.

Home away from home
All but three of the Cardinals' position players have compiled a lifetime batting average of .300 or better at Great American Ball Park. Albert Pujols leads the way with a .360 career mark.

Homers away from home
Pujols has hit eight homers at Great American, just one short of the leading total for a visiting player. Lance Berkman and Geoff Jenkins share the lead with nine each. Jim Edmonds hit his seventh on Monday night while both Scott Rolen and Reggie Sanders have six.

Record record
The last time the Cardinals began a season with 17 wins in their first 25 games was 1948 when they also started 17-8.

Woody shelved
The San Diego Padres put Woody Williams on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique. Darrell May will take his turn against the Cards at Busch on Friday.

Izzy progressing
Jason Isringhausen is scheduled to throw Thursday in St. Louis and remains on track to return from the disabled list the first day he is eligible - May 11 – or shortly thereafter. He is not expected to have to go the minors on a rehab assignment.

Where's the facts, Al?
"I think the bench is stronger by far from last year." – Hungo. Let's see. Since 3/5 of them are the same, all past their peak, in their 30s and a year older - Mabry, Taguchi and Cedeno – it must be the other two. That would be Abraham Nunez over Hector Luna and Einar Diaz over Cody McKay. All considered, the total difference is barely discernable, in my estimation.

Hungo: How blown saves are fun
The FSN Midwest crew had Izzy on the phone during the fifth and sixth. Since the team had a seven-run lead at the time, they could talk quite a while with him. Here is a memorable sample.
Hungo: "I bet you're proud that the bullpen has gone 5-for-6 in save opportunities while you've been out."
Izzy: "And that one was pretty early in the game…"
Hungo: "Actually not. It was when Journell gave up that home run…"
Izzy: "I guess it was."
Hungo: "It was one of those fun things, though..."

Dan-o quote of the night
Dan: "Mulder's pitching another dandy tonight."
I just thought this was amusing, given Dan's regular use of the word "dandy", of which his great-grandfather would undoubtedly be proud.

Wednesday's lineup – Rolen returns
Eckstein, Taguchi (CF), Pujols, Rolen, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Cedeno (RF), Molina and Mulder. Scott Rolen returned after missing two straight games due to pain in his upper back. According to Hungo, Rolen had to talk his way into the lineup. Larry Walker also sat out as planned for the second night in a row due to a groin problem. He is expected back on Thursday. The Cardinals have won all six of Taguchi's starts this season coming in.

On to the game…

Cards first – Albert again on base
Albert legged out an infield single with two out, but Rolen's grounder to short ended it. In the process, Pujols extended his hitting streak to 15 games, his regular season on-base mark to 35 and his regular season consecutive games started count to 57.

Reds first – In your face!
With one out, a bouncer hit off Pujols' glove and then his face, enabling Felipe Lopez to reach base. Mulder promptly picked him off.

Cards second – Break on through
With one out, Grudz doubled on an 0-2 pitch into the left field corner. Molina's two-out single to left-center plated the run and the throw home enabled Molina to take second base. Mulder flied out. Cards 1-0.

Reds second – Second hit
Joe Randa singled with two out, but did not advance.

Cards third – "What struggles?" asks Scott
Leading off, Eckstein singled to left to extend his hitting streak to six games. As Pujols flied out to deep center, Eck daringly tagged up and just slid into second ahead of the throw. That created a two-out RBI opportunity for Rolen. He didn't disappoint, putting a 3-1 pitch into the upper deck in left, 429 feet away. FSN Midwest reported it was only the 21st ball in the history of the stadium to be hit into that section. Rolen came into the game hitting .133 with two outs and runners in scoring position this season. Cards 3-0.

Reds third – Fast Freel
Ryan Freel reached on a high chopper on the infield with two out, but was stranded.

Cards fourth – Cracking it open
Grudz led off with a single and aggressively took third on a Cedeno bloop single to right. Molina's second single was also his second RBI on the night. Even though everyone knew Mulder would bunt, he still reached to load the bases. Eckstein's sac fly scored one and when Freel's wild throw got away, both runners moved up. So's sharp single to left scored two more. Exit Claussen, enter Matt Belisle. Cards 7-0.

Cards seventh – Another Albert single
Pujols singled with one out for his second hit of the night. La Russa wisely pinch-hit Abraham Nunez for Rolen. It didn't matter.

Cards eighth – More Grudz
Leading off, Grudz' third hit of the night, which was also his second double of the game. It is his fifth three or more hit game. He was stranded on base by the lower part of the lineup. Mabry pinch-hit for Mulder as Sanders left the game in a double switch.

Reds eighth – Getting Mulder out early
The last Reds baserunner was seen with two outs in the third. Since then, Mulder retired 13 in a row. He allowed three hits, no walks and fanned three. Mulder threw 88 pitches. Kevin Jarvis allowed a hit to his first batter faced, Joe Randa, but that was it.

Reds ninth – Cali mine
Carmen Cali allowed a walk to Freel and a home run to Lopez. Adam Dunn crushed another out of the park. Al Reyes came on with two out and got the final out. Cards 7-3.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Thursday vs. Padres: Matt Morris vs. Brian Lawrence 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Friday vs. Padres: Jeff Suppan vs. Darrell May 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Saturday vs. Padres: Chris Carpenter vs. Adam Eaton 1:15pm FSN Midwest
Sunday vs. Padres: Jason Marquis vs. Tim Redding 1:15pm WB11

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

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