Walton's Game Observations – Thursday, May 5

The Cardinals were defeated by the Padres 8-3 Thursday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the San Diego Padres in the first of their four-game weekend series by the score of 8-3 Thursday evening at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals' record is now 18-9 as they lead the division by four games over Milwaukee.

Matt Morris opposed Brian Lawrence. One a night the Cardinals executed a triple play behind him, Morris made one very bad pitch, a three-run home run by Brian Giles that had been preceded by a Mark Grudzielanek error. Giles went 4-for-5 with five RBI in total on the evening.

Though the Cardinals offense came to the rescue in the seventh to tie the game, the bullpen let the game get away. Ray King allowed the winning runs in the eighth, then Kevin Jarvis and recent call-up Bill Pulsipher were charged with three more.

At the plate, Grudz homered, but no Cardinal hitter had more than one safety. Albert Pujols collected a double and two walks. Yadier Molina picked two runners off first.

How hot is Albert?
During his 15-game hit streak coming in, Pujols was 26-for-65 (.400) at the plate to improve his season average from a boring .250 to a very respectable .339.

CBS Sportsline rumor
Tampa Bay closer Danys Baez has been linked to trade rumors in recent weeks. Teams rumored to be interested include the Cubs, Rangers and Giants. For the first time, CBS Sportsline suggests the Cardinals might also be among them. Baez certainly would shore up the right side of the pen, but his price would be steep. As long as Izzy is really ok, I'd rather see the money spent and players traded to improve outfield depth.

Once a skill is displayed…
Mets second baseman Miguel Cairo made his second career start at first base on Wednesday night and his first since April of 2002, when he was with the Cardinals. Somewhere, Tony La Russa grinned.

Ankiel watch
Rick Ankiel went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts Tuesday and is 1-for-19 with seven strikeouts since joining Double-A Springfield as their right fielder. He sat out Wednesday's game.

Opponents, don't run!
Prior to Thursday, catcher Yadier Molina had thrown out seven of nine runners trying to steal bases against him. Backup Einar Diaz had caught three of four. That's a 23% success rate for the opposition.

Eight game homestand begins
Coming off a 4-2 road trip, the Cardinals begin a stretch of eight consecutive games at Busch. Both teams this weekend had sweeps in their last series. The Cards took the Reds three straight in Cincinnati while the Padres swept the Rockies at home.

Hungo sticks neck out again
Joe Buck asked Al if he thought Albert Pujols would win the Most Valuable Player award. Said Al, "I predict he will win at least one." Really? And, why are they even talking about this during the first week of May? No wonder Albert is not wild about talking with the press. Suppose he wanted to answer a question about that?

Karsay rumor
Hungo said the Cardinals may be interested in waived Yankees reliever Steve Karsay once he clears. The right hander was designated for assignment Tuesday. The Yankees have ten days to trade him or put him on waivers. Karsay has a $5 million salary this year, and his contract contains a $6.5 million option for 2006 with a $1.25 million buyout. The Yankees will be liable for all of that except for a pro-rated portion of the minimum salary. The 33-year-old has a career 3.89 ERA in 334 games since his first major league appearance in 1993.

Welcome, Brad
New arrival, pitcher Brad Thompson was issued number 48. It was last used regularly by reliever Russ Springer back in 2003 and Mike Matthews and Jason Christiansen prior to that.

No Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo
On the roster, the Cards have no Mexicans. However, they have representation from the USA, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Canada, Venezuela, Panama and Japan.

The Mendoza Line
Hungo, I know you're out there! In the eighth, with Molina at the plate, he referenced the title of Rex Duncan's Thursday Birdhouse story about Molina's hitting. Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday's lineup – Return of the A-Team
Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Molina and Morris. Walker returned after missing the entire Cincinnati series with a groin strain. Edmonds hit clean-up ahead of Rolen.

On to the game…

Cards first – Failed start
Eckstein coaxed a lead off walk, but Walker failed and Albert ground into a 6-4-3.

Padres second – Cards triple play
Phil Nevin and Brian Giles singled to start the inning. As the runners were breaking, Ramon Hernandez lined out to Pujols, who stepped on first and threw to Eckstein for the third out. It was the teams' first triple play since 2002.

Cards second – Tie broken
Edmonds began the inning with a single. Rolen's grounder was handled on a fine play by his opposite number, Jeff Burroughs. Burroughs threw from his knees to just nip Rolen, as Edmonds took second. Sanders doubled over the third base bag to score Edmonds. Sanders tried to steal third but was nailed easily. Grudz drew a walk but Molina lined out to short. Cards 1-0.

Padres second – Picked off
Damian Jackson walked. As Pujols broke in on a bunt by Lawrence, Grudz slipped in behind Jackson and tagged him out as Molina's snap throw arrived in a flash. Lawrence then singled off Morris' leg, but Dave Roberts fanned to end it.

Cards third – Two out threat
Walker singled and Albert walked with two down, but Edmonds made the third out.

Padres fourth – Disaster hits
Klesko singled with one out. Grudz erred on a sure inning-ending double-play ball by Nevin, putting runners on the corners. It was just his second error, first since opening day. But, the Pads made the Cards pay as Giles drilled a home run up into the seats in right. Molina set up inside, but the ball was right over the plate. Padres 3-1.

Padres fifth – More trouble averted
Lawrence walked and Roberts doubled to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Edmonds saved a run as the Padres held the pitcher on third on a fly ball to center by Loretta. Neither scored.

Cards sixth – Albert extends it
Albert doubled with one out to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. The ball squirted out of Giles' glove deep in the corner. Rolen walked with two out, but that was it.

Cards seventh – Morris off the hook
Mark Grudzielanek hit his second home run of his Cardinals career to start the inning. Molina singled and Roger Cedeno pinch-hit for Morris. Cedeno forced Molina out and moved up as Eckstein singled. Walker's double play ball was only good for one out as the throw got away from Lawrence at first, allowing Cedeno to score. Pujols' walk led to a pitching change. Chris Hammond walked Edmonds to load the bases. Rolen popped up to end the threat. He was hitting just .194 with runners in scoring position coming into the game. Tie 3-3.

Padres eighth – Only tied for a moment
Morris allowed six hits and two walks in seven innings. He fanned five and allowed three runs. Ray King got the call for the eighth. He allowed a hit to Loretta. After a nice play by Sanders in the outfield to get the ball in, King inexplicably threw the ball away, letting Loretta take second. He took third on a ground out. Nevin was given an intentional unintentional walk. He took third as Loretta scored on a single up the middle by Giles. Ramon Hernandez singled home another run. Home plate umpire Mark Carlson tossed King as his frustration increased. Kevin Jarvis got the call and walked Burroughs to load the bases. Molina saved further damage as Burroughs was picked off first. Padres 5-3.

Padres ninth – More pen woes
Jarvis hit Jackson to start the inning and was promptly pulled in favor of Bill Pulsipher. Miguel Ojeda singled and Roberts bunted the runners up. Loretta was intentionally walked before Jesse Garcia singled a run home. Nevin's sacrifice fly scored another and Giles' single scored one more. Padres 8-3.

Cards ninth - Nada
With the five run lead, the wind was out of the Cardinals sails. Walker walked with two out and that was it. Get them tomorrow, guys!

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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
Monday vs. Dodgers: Mark Mulder vs. Jeff Weaver 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Tuesday vs. Dodgers: Matt Morris vs. Odalis Perez 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Wednesday vs. Dodgers: Jeff Suppan vs. Brad Penny 7:10pm FSN Midwest/ESPN
Thursday vs. Dodgers: Chris Carpenter vs. Derek Lowe 12:10pm FSN Midwest

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

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