Walton's Game Observations – Monday

The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 4-2 Monday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals returned home Monday night to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2. The team's record is now 28-16. Their NL Central lead remains seven games over Milwaukee and the Cubs.

Chris Carpenter took on David Williams. Carp started roughly, walking three in the first two frames, but settled down to strike out six and allowing just four hits and one run in seven innings. He earned his team-best seventh win, while Jason Isringhausen logged his 12 save in 12 chances this season.

Albert Pujols had a big two-run double while Reggie Sanders had two hits and the other two RBI.

"Pirates – Come Hungry"
The Pirates, once proud, are now a sad franchise. Take their 2005 marketing slogan as evidence. The neon sign motif is reminiscent of McDonalds and they have a bunch of "cheesy" commercials featuring Bucs players. The commercials remind me a bit of the Jim Meskimen Schnuck's commercials from a few years back – and that is not a compliment. Anyway, forget about winning baseball – come to the park to get a good meal. For truth in advertising, I suggest the slogan be updated to this: "Pirates – Come Hungry; Go Home Empty."

Over Three Million Served
Continuing on the food theme... Anyway, the Cardinals issued a Monday press release to brag that the team has surpassed the three million mark in ticket sales. With 60 regular season games remaining, they are on pace to establish a franchise single-season sales record in their final season in Busch Stadium. The record, 3,336,493, was set in 2000.

Carpenter missing the zone
Last season, Chris Carpenter walked just 38 men in 28 starts, or 1.35 per game. Carpenter has averaged four walks per game in his last three starts coming in to Monday.

Recent series history favorable
The Cardinals took both games of a two-game series at Pittsburgh in April. St. Louis went 12-5 vs. the Pirates last year, and coming into the day had won nine straight games over Pittsburgh dating back to last August 20.

Offense clicking
Prior to Monday, the Cardinals scored 43 runs in their last seven games to bring their season runs scored total to 228, best in the National League. It is timely, as the starting pitching, which carried the team early-on, has been struggling.

Eck vs. Rent
So, David Eckstein has eight errors on the season. So does $40 million man Edgar Renteria. Mr. Clutch is hitting .167 with two out and runners in scoring position and will soon be feeling the heat in from the Beantowners. By the way, Eckstein is hitting .389 in the same situation.

La Russa milestone
With the win Monday, Tony La Russa tied Whitey Herzog for the second most managerial wins in Cardinals history with 822. Red Schoendienst is #1 with 1041.

Monday's lineup
Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Seabol (3b), Taguchi (cf), Molina and Carpenter. Jim Edmonds and John Mabry, nursing minor injuries, were given the night off. Seabol, a Pittsburgh native, got his second-ever start.

On to the game…

Pirates first - Carp freebies
Carpenter walked the leadoff man, Matt Lawton. He moved up on a ground out, and was joined on the basepaths when Darryl Ward also walked.

Pirates third – Pickin' and grinnin'
Lawton walked again, this time with one out. But, Carpenter picked him off with a nice move. Three walks in two innings, though.

Cards third – Pitches better than he hits
Second baseman Jose Castillo erred on a Molina liner. A double play ended it, as Carpenter was unable to execute a sacrifice bunt successfully.

Pirates fifth – Bucs break through
Walker fell as he tried to make a shoestring catch on Rob Mackowiak's liner. Mack ended up at second with a double. It was the first hit of the game for either team. Tike Redman beat out an infield single as Eckstein's arm weakness was likely a factor. Runners on the corners with no out. The pitcher Williams was a hero after fighting off a number of pitches before hitting a sac fly. Bucs 1-0.

Cards fifth – A whimper
Sanders led off with a single for the first Redbirds' hit. He never even made it to second base. C'mon guys! Williams wears number 58, for Pete's sake! We're not talking Roger Clemens here.

Pirates sixth
Wilson, Bay and Ward all fanned. Carpenter doubled his strikeouts in the process.

Cards sixth – Albert steps up
Molina had a strong at-bat and singled leading off. Carpenter again had bunting trouble on the first pitch, but was successful this time. Walker walked. Pujols doubled into the left field corner and took third as the throw home got away. Both runners scored. Sanders hit a ball to deep short, but Wilson's throw was wide. Albert came home. Cards 3-1.

Pirates seventh – Carp slips the hook
Ed Rapuano took over for Jerry Crawford behind the plate, delaying the start of the inning by several minutes. Crawford had back spasms. Mackowiak singled with one out. Redman doubled to center to put two in scoring position. Carp induced pop outs from Humberto Cota and pinch-hitter Bobby Hill to escape.

Cards seventh – Insurance missed
Brian Meadows took over on the mound. Seabol led off with a single. The hit and run worked – sort of. So's grounder erased Seabol at second, despite him breaking early, but Castillo's throw toward first was wild. So ended up sliding safely into second base. But, he was stranded by Molina and pinch-hitter Abraham Nunez.

Pirates eighth – Julian jolted
Ray King relieved Carpenter. He got his one out, Lawton, and left the game in favor of Julian Tavarez. So much for the match-ups as Jason Bay shot a line drive to the opposite field for a home run. Duncan was back on the mound for another chat. Randy Flores is up in the pen. But, Ward fanned for the third out. Cards 3-2.

Cards eighth – Insurance taken
Eckstein led off with a single against Ryan Vogelsong. A beautiful hit-and-run by Walker put runners on the corners with no one out. Eckstein broke for home on Pujols' nubber. He stayed in the rundown long enough for Walker to take third. Why didn't Albert take second? Sanders' soft grounder to second was eaten by Mackowiak. Walker scored. It was the Pirates' third error of the night. Cards 4-2.

Pirates ninth – Izzy time
Redman and Cota singled off closer Jason Isringhausen with one out. But, that was it. Interesting as always with Izzy on the mound.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh: Jason Marquis vs. Kip Wells 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh: Mark Mulder vs. Mark Redman 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Thursday: Open
Friday vs. Nationals: Matt Morris (4-0, 3.50) vs. Tony Armas, Jr. 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Saturday vs. Nationals: Jeff Suppan (3-5, 4.38) vs. John Patterson 6:15pm FSN Midwest
Sunday vs. Nationals: Chris Carpenter (6-2, 4.07) vs. Estaban Loaiza 1:15pm WB11

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

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