Walton's Game Observations – Monday, May 9

The Cardinals defeated the Dodgers by a 4-2 mark Monday evening.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers by the score of 4-2 Monday night in the first of a four-game series. The Cardinals' record is now 20-11 and their NL Central lead is back to five games.

Mark Mulder took on Odalis Perez. Mulder was the co-star of the evening as he allowed just seven baserunners – five hits and two walks – in seven one-run innings. He tied his career-high, as he fanned twelve hitters and worked his sinker to the max, collecting just one flyball out. Mulder lowered his ERA to 2.70 in the process of collecting his fifth win against only one loss. Al Reyes collected a one-out save, his third of the season.

Albert Pujols was the hitting star, with two home runs and all four RBI. He also drew two walks for a perfect night at the plate. On the down side, Scott Rolen went hitless and committed two errors in the field.

Steiner and Psycho
Deposed Yankee broadcaster and former ESPN personality Charlie Steiner was at the mike for the Dodgers' FSN West 2 broadcast. His color man was ex-player Steve "Psycho" Lyons, who is best known for dropping his uniform pants at first base to shake out the dirt after sliding into base while with the Chicago White Sox. Steiner is best known for his commercial with Evander Holyfield where the latter wanted to punch him out. Good idea.

Psycho and TLR together… almost
Speaking of the White Sox and Lyons, his and La Russa's moving vans may have passed in Chicago back in 1986. On June 29, Lyons was traded to the Sox from the Boston Red Sox for future Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver. La Russa's final season with the White Sox ended with his firing just ten days earlier, on June 19.

Brad Thompson's firsts
Brad Thompson earned a save in his major league debut Sunday. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched three innings and allowed one run on two hits while walking one and striking out two. Thompson is the first Cards pitcher to register a save in his first game since John Urrea did it on April 10, 1977 at Pittsburgh in an 8-7 St. Louis win. Urrea went on to collect saves in each of his next two appearances, so the bar is set high for Thompson. However, Urrea only collected nine saves in his five-year career, so here's hoping that Thompson will do much better than that.

Another Thompson first
Thompson, who was the 16th-round selection of the Cardinals in 2002, is the first member of that draft class to reach the majors.

Eck is tougher than Albert
With all the fanfare over Albert Pujols' low strikeout count, the fact is that David Eckstein is actually more difficult to strike out. In fact, the Cardinals sport three of the top ten players in the National League as the hardest to fan. Eckstein ranks third (21.2 plate appearances/strikeout), Pujols is fifth (15.6 PA/K) and Yadier Molina is seventh (14.1 PA/K).

Dodgers late bloomers
The Dodgers lead the NL in one category that speaks both to their bullpen strength and clutch hitting. Los Angeles has come back six times in the eighth inning or later to collect wins this season. Six in 30 games is pretty impressive.

Error on Steiner
Charlie Steiner is confused about his Big Ten schools. He said that Mulder went to college at Northwestern instead of Michigan State. We know better.

Kennedy Cards kudos
Fox analyst and former manager Kevin Kennedy said he thinks the Cardinals are good enough to perhaps win 105 games again. He views the team as having three aces – Carpenter, Morris and Mulder.

Monday's lineup – Two reserves start
Eckstein, Grudzielanek, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Sanders, Taguchi (RF), Diaz and Mulder. Though he has been hitting well, Larry Walker was given the night off, and Yadier Molina missed his first game after his ankle injury. So Taguchi and Einar Diaz started in their places.

On to the game…

Cards first – Albert drives home two, whoops, one
Eckstein led off with a single to left. He was thrown out trying to steal second base as Grudz struck out. The out was costly, as it didn't take Albert long to slam a home run out to left. Cards 1-0.

Dodgers second – Two on
Jeff Kent singled starting off the inning. On a Jason Phillips grounder, Grudz bobbled the ball a bit and as a result, he did not go after the lead runner. He threw to first instead. Ricky Ledee drew a two-out pass but Mulder fanned Mike Edwards for the third out. It was Mulder's fourth K in two innings.

Cards second – Good chance missed
Sanders singled with one out and So also reached via an infield single between Olmedo Saenz at first and Kent at second. But, Diaz popped out via the infield fly rule. Sanders and Taguchi executed a double steal without a throw. Mulder ended it with a strikeout.

Dodgers third – Rolen errs
With two outs, Jason Repko reached as Scott Rolen made just his third error on the season. The ball seemed to spin off Rolen's glove.

Cards third – Two more wasted
Grudz took second as rookie third baseman Edwards' ill-advised throw to first was late and wild. Pujols walked, but Rolen fouled out again, also again failing with a runner in scoring position. So did Edmonds, who took a called strike three.

Dodgers fifth – Game tied
Ricky Ledee drew a lead off walk and traded places with Edwards on a force out that was almost a double play. Cesar Izturis doubled into the right field corner and he took third on the throw to the plate as Ledee scored. Tie 1-1.

Cards fifth – Pujols is good
After walking, Eckstein took third on a very close throw after Grudz' single to right. After fouling off a number of pitches, Albert mashed a full count offering into the seats. A well-deserved curtain call ensued. Cards 4-1.

Cards sixth – Reggie nabbed
Leading off, Sanders tried to stretch a single into a double and was thrown out by Milton Bradley. Coming into the game, he was tied with Sanders as tops in the league with five outfield assists. Bradley now has the lead to himself.

Dodgers seventh – K sandwich
Ricky Ledee fanned. He was Mulder's tenth K of the night. Edwards singled with one out. Pinch-hitter Jason Grabowski was strikeout victim #11. At this point, Mulder has only one outfield fly out in the game. Izturis singled with two down, which caused Duncan to come out and visit Mulder. He then fanned Repko for his third strikeout of the inning and a career-high 12th of the game. It was a great ending for Mulder.

Dodgers eighth – Pen trouble contained
Bradley greeted Julian Tavarez with a lead off single. Rolen missed a ball hit by Saenz for his second fielding error of the game. Official scorer Mike Smith got it right. Saenz took Eckstein out on a hard slide on a force out. With two out and runners on the corners, Ray King got the call. Ledee blasted King's first pitch into the right field corner. The RBI single put runners back on the corners, but Edwards popped out. Cards 4-2.

Cards eighth – Edmonds' gaffe hurts
Pujols and Rolen walked off Duaner Sanchez before he was pulled. Strangely, Jim Edmonds bunted on the first pitch into an out. What in the heck was that about? Giovanni Carrara fanned Sanders, but thought it was the third out. Rolen was forced out by Taguchi to end the threat.

Dodgers ninth – Making it interesting
With one out, Izturis singled to center off King as Al Reyes warmed up. Eckstein bobbled what looked to be a sure game-ending 6-4-3 grounder by Jason Repko, but recovered enough to get the lead run. That brought out Duncan, who pulled King for Reyes. Repko took second as no one cared. Reyes fanned Milton Bradley looking to end the game and collected his third save in the process.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Tuesday vs. Dodgers: Matt Morris vs. Scott Erickson 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
Friday @ Mets: Jason Marquis vs. Pedro Martinez 6:10pm FSN Midwest
Saturday @ Mets: Mark Mulder vs. Tom Glavine 12:10pm FSN Midwest
Sunday @ Mets: Matt Morris vs. Kris Benson 12:10pm WB11

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

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