Mark Mulder opposed Pedro Martinez. Not unlike when Mulder faced Tim Hudson in Atlanta two weeks ago, neither pitcher was dominant. Yet, Mulder came into the sixth inning with a 5-2 lead before it fell apart. The Cards managed just five hits against Pedro, but they collected five runs in the process.
All is right again in the pen as rookie Brad Thompson wiggled out of a tough jam in the sixth. Then, Julian Tavarez spun 1-2/3 innings of one-hit ball to get the win and Jason Isringhausen collected the save in his first action back from the disabled list.
Mark Grudzielanek, Pedro's former teammate, was the Cardinals hitting star, with two hits, including a home run, and four RBI. Abraham Nunez homered and walked twice.
Is it everywhere?
If Wilson Delgado gets busted for using banned performance-enhancing drugs, how many players couldn't?
Molina a willing student
Before the game, Yadier Molina spent a considerable amount of time studying video for at least the second day in a row. Even though he is out of the line-up, he is working. I like that a lot.
Eckstein in demand
Two hours before the game, David Eckstein and I were heading out of the clubhouse together. I had noticed that he had been inundated with interview requests. So, I asked him if he minded being in such great demand. His answer, as expected was "Not at all. It sure beats the alternative". He is just a nice person.
Eckstein working alone
Where was Eckstein going? He went off by himself in the cage under the stands. First, he threw into the net. Then, he swung the bat over and over and over. No one was there to see except me. How could I not be impressed with his work ethic? Mike Shannon made some very, very complimentary remarks to me about Eckstein on Friday. I have to agree with him.
Around the clubhouse
Walt Jocketty joined a group of players including Izzy who were sitting at a folding table reading a variety of newspapers. Izzy's side was wrapped tightly. The day's starter, Mark Mulder, was generally being ignored as he sat alone on a couch, flipping through magazines.
McRae knew Grudz knew
Before the game, Hitting Coach Hal McRae walked up to Mark Grudzielanek and asked him for a "Pedro Report". Grudz asked Hal, "In Montreal or now?" The two were teammates with the Expos from 1995 until 1997. Based on his success Saturday, apparently Grudz knew something and McRae knew who to ask.
Eckstein, Nunez (3b), Pujols, Edmonds, Mabry (rf), Grudzielanek, Taguchi (lf), Molina and Mulder. Walker, Sanders and Molina were given routine days off. Despite the P-D reporting as a certainty, Pujols may take Sunday off. La Russa said it will depend on how Pujols does on Saturday and how he is feeling.
On to the game…
Mets first – Leadoff man on
Jose Reyes led off with a sharply-hit single to left. Former Cardinal Miguel Cairo ground into a fielders' choice, getting the speedy Reyes off the basepaths. Mulder retired Beltran and Floyd to end it.
Cards second – Grudz muscles up
Mabry drew a one-out free pass and came home as Mark Grudzielanek homered over the Cardinals bullpen in left. Cards 2-0.
Mets second – Boos ‘R Us
Mike Cameron led off with a double that flew over Edmonds' head and clanged off the centerfield wall. Mulder turned David Wright's comebacker into a rundown that retired Cameron. Ramon Castro singled to left. Kaz Matsui responded to the boos by grounding into a double play. Guess what happened next? Right. More booing.
Cards third - Smoke
Abraham Nunez drew a two-out walk, but Albert flied out to right.
Mets third – Mano-a-mano
Cairo doubled into the left field corner with two out. Beltran singled to deep short. Nunez dived and missed and Eckstein's throw was a split second too late, despite Pujols good sell job. Mulder fanned Cliff Floyd swinging on a full count to escape.
Cards fourth –Another run
Mabry doubled off the right center wall. Hustling all the way, he just slid into second before Beltran's throw. Grudz' single to center scored Mabry. He tried to stretch it into a double, but was called out on a close play. Replays looked to show one foot had hit the back just before the other knee was tagged by Matsui. Cards 3-0.
Mets fourth – Trouble for Mulder
Cameron drew a leadoff walk. As he was breaking off first, David Wright slammed an RBI double into the right field corner. Ramon Castro's single to left easily scored Wright as Taguchi's throw from short left field was off by a considerable margin. Castro took second on the throw home. Still no one out as a conference on the mound was held. Mulder did a good job getting the next three outs with no more damage. Cards 3-2.
Cards sixth – Nunez homers
Nunez hit the first pitch 380 feet out for a home run. Albert followed with a warning-track shot to center that Beltran caught. Edmonds singled. Mabry's shot off Cairo at first was scored an error. Edmonds took third, but suffered a minor injury. La Russa and Trainer Barry Weinberg came out, but Edmonds remained in the game. Grudz hit a sac fly to the track in right to score Edmonds with an unearned run. Cards 5-2.
Mets sixth – Lead lost
Cameron and Wright singled leading off. There was action in the bullpen. After Castro shot a liner just foul to left, the entire infield joined Mulder on the mound. Castro fouled off several pitches before walking to load the bases. Matsui's triple into the right field corner cleared the bases. Mulder was pulled in favor of Brad Thompson, in his first pressure game action since being called up. Victor Diaz, pinch-hitting for Pedro, almost undressed Thompson, as his single up the middle scored Matsui. Reyes twice showed bunt before his shot bounced off Pujols' glove. Albert erred, throwing wildly toward second as Diaz took third. Reyes was caught stealing by Thompson. Cairo fouled out and Beltran ground out to finally end the frame. Mets 6-5.
Cards seventh – Threat quelled
Pinch-hitting for Thompson, Scott Seabol singled off pitcher Heath Bell and just beat Matsui's throw to first. It was Seabol's first major league hit. He previously had one hitless at-bat for the Yankees in 2001. Eckstein ground into a 6-4-3 for the final outs.
Mets seventh – King and Tavarez handle it
Ray King was asked to retire Floyd and he did, striking him out. Julian Tavarez came on and gave up a two-out single to Wright. However, Diaz threw him out trying to steal.
Cards eighth – Back again
Nunez walked to lead off against Roberto Hernandez. Pujols' flare to right dropped in to put two on with no out for Edmonds, who also dropped a ball down the left field line for a run-scoring double. With one out, Pujols was held at third. Grudz walked to load the sacks for pinch-hitter Larry Walker. His sac fly plated Albert. Cards 7-6.
Tavarez stayed in the game as Walker took over in right and Mabry shifted over to left. Tavarez retired them in order, fanning former Cardinal Marlon Anderson looking after going 3-0.
Cards ninth – Not enough
Former Cardinal Mike DeJean took the mound. Reggie Sanders hit for Tavarez but didn't, as he fanned. Eckstein singled to right. Nunez took his place via a fielders' choice. But, Albert fanned.
Mets ninth – Izzy really earns the save
In his first appearance since returning from the disabled list, Jason Isringhausen opened the ninth. He walked Reyes on a full-count offering leading off. Cairo sacrificed him into scoring position. The Mets' fans stood and cheered as Carlos Beltran stepped in. Izzy worked deliberately, retiring Beltran on a fly to left. Cliff Floyd, who homered twice on Friday night, was passed intentionally to boos rivaling those for Matsui in their intensity. Mike Cameron, no easy out himself, was next. Izzy fanned him swinging to end the game in style.
Upcoming action (times CDT)
Sunday @ Mets: Matt Morris vs. Aaron Heilman 12:10pm WB11
Monday: Off day
Tuesday @ Phillies: Jeff Suppan vs. Cory Lidle 6:05pm FSN Midwest
Wednesday @ Phillies: Chris Carpenter vs. Jon Lieber 6:05pm FSN Midwest/ESPN
Thursday @ Phillies: Jason Marquis vs. Brett Myers 12:05pm FSN Midwest
Saturday Post-Game Comments
On his outing
I committed the #1 sin, walking Reyes (to open the ninth), but we were able to get out of it. Floyd's had some good numbers against me, so we weren't going to take any chances and go after Cameron.
On how he felt
It felt good – until I walked the first guy. Then the nerves settled down and it was back to work.
On whether he was overthrowing to the first batter
I don't know what it was. I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes. That is what I had in my mind. I couldn't do it.
On finishing them off
That's when the adrenaline starts kicking in and you kind of know it. I knew Miguel was going to try a hit-and-run or bunt or something. With Reyes speed, we were still able to get through it.
That's not what you want to do with a one run lead and the top of the lineup up – a lot of danger. That's one thing about Izzy, you give him anything, it's that he is absolutely fearless. That wasn't fair that we pulled it off. It's good to have him back.
On Grudz vs. Pedro
Youre talking about a Hall of Famer. And you get some RBIs off him. He's so good, it's scary. That is what we needed. That is how you win a game like that. Somebody has to be a hero and he had a day. You give him some credit.
On walking Floyd
It's why they have a good club. I'd hate to get Cameron out to end the game. He's going to get his hits. But, right now, you can't let Floyd beat you – if you have the chance. If the guy's on first base, you can't but with first base open, you take a shot.
I thought he was good. Give him credit.
On Brad Thompson
I thought he demonstrated a lot of composure in that situation. I've seen a lot of veterans come in there and not do so well. I thought that was another plus outing for him.
On whether he was surprised to come in when he did
I kind of was. He had King warming up first.
On allowing an inherited runner to score
I hate to let runs in. I wish I hadn't let Mulder's run in.
On pitching on the road
I didn't have the fans on my side as much as at Busch. It was good experience for me.
On coming in with runners on base
I came in with runners on base (at Memphis). I come on whenever. It wasn't my first time like that. It was nice to come into a close game like that. I am just glad we pulled it out.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.