Walton's Game Observations – Tuesday

The Cardinals outlasted the Pirates 2-1 in 12 innings Tuesday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 in 12 innings Tuesday evening. The team's record is now 29-16. Thirteen games over .500 is a new high-water mark. Their NL Central lead remains seven games.

Jason Marquis faced Kip Wells. Wells was masterful, allowing just four hits and an unearned run in 7-1/3 innings. Marquis struggled mightily though five, but didn't break. His mates' defense was also stellar. The bullpen of Brad Thompson, Randy Flores, Julian Tavarez, Ray King and Al Reyes held the Bucs off the board for seven frames more, despite them having baserunners in every inning.

Larry Walker was most of the offense, with two walks, a hit and a run scored. But, Yadier Molina threw out two baserunners and had the game-winning hit.

Pujols consistently streaking
Coming into the day, Albert Pujols had a seven-game hit streak underway. He was 11-for-29, .379, during that stretch. In fact, Pujols had gone hitless in a game just five times this season. And one of those games was his only day off, in which he pinch-hit. That streak ended when Pujols was ejected from Tuesday's game.

Cubs looking at Byrnes?
The Contra Costa Times is reporting that the Oakland A's are talking with clubs, including the Chicago Cubs, about outfielder Eric Byrnes. He can play all outfield positions and has less than four years service time. While Byrnes will be eligible for arbitration this coming winter, he is three years away from free agency. Byrnes would be a great addition to the Cards, but I have no inkling they are in the hunt.

La Russa rapping?
Joe Buck's opening for Tuesday's game broadcast was amusing. The camera showed Tony La Russa standing in front of Matt Morris and another player on the bench. Buck said La Russa was "rapping" with them. Consider the thought…

Marquis going Suppan?
Similar to Jeff Suppan last year, Marquis is thriving away from Busch, but giving up a lot of runs at home. His road ERA is 1.55 (29 innings pitched / 5 earned runs) is fourth-best in the National League. His record is 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA at Busch this season.

Odd cleanup hitter
I have been impressed with clean up hitter Jim Edmonds' plate discipline recently. Edmonds has eight walks in his last eight games. Unfortunately, he has but five hits during that period. An unorthodox clean up hitter, to say the least.

Hungo sleeping late
During the 12th, Al said, "La Russa still has his closer to call on if he can get a lead." While it was true that Izzy was available, if the Cards were to score, the game would be over. Hungo must have thought he was still back in KC or something.

Tuesday's lineup
Eckstein, Walker, Pujols, Edmonds, Sanders, Mabry (3b), Nunez (2b), Molina and Marquis. Jim Edmonds and John Mabry, both nursing minor injuries, returned. Mark Grudzielanek took the night off, at least until Pujols' ejection.

On to the game…

Pirates first – Two out home run
With two out, Jason Bay homered over a leaping Larry Walker in right. Daryle Ward followed with a single. Pirates 1-0.

Cards first – Just a tease
Larry Walker drew a one-out free pass. But, that was it.

Pirates second – Molina's arm slows threat
Marquis walked Rob Mackowiak leading off, but Molina threw him out trying to steal. Molina is 6-for-12 throwing out runners this season. That is really impressive! Marquis then walked the #8 hitter, Humberto Cota. Very unimpressive.

Pirates third – Two more on base
With one out, Jack Wilson reached via a single. With two outs, Ward joined him on the bases via Marquis' third walk of the night. But, a force out ended it.

Pirates fourth – Two more on, but not together
After the leadoff man Mackowiak singled, he was erased in a 6-4-3. Cota singled with two out, but didn't progress.

Cards fourth – A hit and a run
Walker singled for the initial Cards' hit of the night. Albert fanned as Walker broke for second and reached. Edmonds was intentionally walked with two out. On a Sanders' ball up the middle, second baseman Jose Castillo made a diving stop. But, Edmonds' slide took out shortstop Jack Wilson, who airmailed the ball to first, enabling Walker to score. Tie 1-1.

Pirates fifth – Three more Bucs on base
Bay doubled to left with two out and Ward was given an intentional walk. Castillo walked to load the bases. Marquis is over 100 pitches already as Brad Thompson began to throw in the pen. But, Marquis whiffed Mackowiak to escape again. I hope the offense can score one in the bottom of the inning, so Marquis can get his win and take a shower. He's been playing with dynamite all night.

Cards fifth – RISP left behind
Marquis wants that win. He was allowed to hit with two out and doubled down the left field line. But, Eckstein couldn't bring him home. It was just the third Redbirds runner stranded.

Pirates sixth – Sanders for the defense
Brad Thompson drilled Humberto Cota with a pitch. Reggie Sanders made an excellent, leaping catch to save a run.

Cards sixth – Time out for Albert
Albert Pujols threw his bat down after striking out for the second time on a borderline pitch. Home plate C.B. Bucknor tossed him from the game as a result. La Russa came out to argue, of course to no avail.

Pirates seventh – More solid defense
Wilson singled leading off. With one out, Randy Flores came in and after retiring one man, picked Wilson off first.

Cards seventh - Scratching
Nunez reached via a swinging bunt with two outs. It is just the third Cards hit of the night.

Pirates eighth – Defense holding up their end
Castillo led off with a single to center. He was out on a nice 6-4-3, as the Cards doubled up the speedy Redman for the second time on the evening. Grudz made a strong relay throw.

Cards eighth – Great chance missed
Hitting from the left side, Roger Cedeno finally reached. His lead off single went past third. Eckstein bunted perfectly on the first pitch, despite the fact that everyone knew what was coming. Wells was finally pulled for Mike Gonzalez. Walker fanned on a ball low and outside the zone. Hitting in the ejected Pujols' spot, Grudzielanek was intentionally walked. Sure would have been nice to have Albert hitting. Edmonds worked a full count before being called out on a low pitch he was sure was ball four. He argued with Bucknor, but didn't join Pujols on the sidelines.

Pirates ninth – RISP contained
Matt Lawton stroked a two-out double off the base of the wall against Julian Tavarez, but he was stranded. Izzy had been up during the previous frame, but since the Cards didn't score, he is being saved for that potential opportunity later.

Cards ninth – No Mabry heroics
Former Cardinal pitcher Rick White walked Sanders leading off. But, Mabry ground into a double play.

Pirates tenth – Keeping them at Bay
Bay singled leading off against Tavarez. Ray King started warming up. Edmonds made a great catch on the dead run in deep center against Ward. A double play ended it.

Pirates eleventh – Great D
Ray King allowed a leadoff base hit to Mackowiak. Al Reyes is throwing in the bullpen. Nunez and Eckstein made a nice play to get the lead runner on a failed sacrifice attempt. Reyes came in. A strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play ended it. Molina got the speedy Redman at second.

Cards eleventh – Nice try
Closer Jose Mesa took the mound. Edmonds coaxed a two-out walk but was out stealing.

Pirates twelfth – More runners
The Pirates continued their streak of having someone on base in every inning, as Lawton walked with one out against Reyes. He was stranded.

Cards twelfth – Molina comes thru
Sanders led off with a single to right off Mesa. A hit and run with Mabry put Sanders in scoring position. Nunez was walked intentionally to set up the possible double play. But, Molina bounced a ball through the left side to end it. He was mobbed at first base by his elated teammates. Cards 2-1.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh: Mark Mulder vs. Mark Redman 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Thursday: Open
Friday vs. Nationals: Matt Morris (4-0, 3.50) vs. TBA 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Saturday vs. Nationals: Jeff Suppan (3-5, 4.38) vs. Estaban Loaiza 6:15pm FSN Midwest
Sunday vs. Nationals: Chris Carpenter (6-2, 4.07) vs. Livan Hernandez 1:15pm WB11

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

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