Walton's Game Observations – Thursday

Allowing three in the ninth, the Cardinals were edged by the Rockies 8-7 Thursday afternoon.

Blowing the lead three times, the St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Colorado Rockies 8-7 Thursday afternoon after a pair of rain delays. The Redbirds and Rockies split the series at two games each. The Redbirds' record is an NL-best 34-19 and their road mark is a still a superb 17-9.

Jeff Suppan tried to even his season mark at 5-5 vs. Shawn Chacon, but got a no-decision. In five innings, Suppan's allowed seven hits, one walk and five runs allowed, all earned. He fanned one, but allowed two home runs.

Brad Thompson was in line for first-ever win in the majors, while Ray King, Julian Tavarez and Al Reyes did their part to get holds. Reyes is to be especially commended for escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth. However, Jason Isringhausen had his first blown save of the season and took the loss as well, as he allowed three runs with no out in the ninth.

In addition to eleven hits and eight walks, the Cards received the benefit of two passed balls and three Rockies wild pitches. The Redbirds hitters stranded 13 runners, yet seemed to have just enough offense to win. Scott Seabol and Einar Diaz each drove in two. Albert Pujols was on base four times, with two hits and two walks, and stole a base. Abraham Nunez had a double among his two hits and also walked twice.

Cedeno looks ahead and so do I
As told by Roger Cedeno to Derrick Gould of the P-D: "Next year, maybe I'll get the opportunity to play every day, show that I can," he said. "I'm not going to care about money, I'm going to care about playing time. I'm still young, still strong. Playing time is the most important. This year, this team has a plan and I want to be a part. But next year, playing time will be important to me." OK, Roger. Which team would be desperate enough and foolish enough to guarantee you playing time? You are a liability in the field and are not a dependable hitter. Maybe you could consider a reverse Ankiel. Start working on that cutter.

Fewest steals allowed
The Cardinals have allowed the fewest stolen bases in all of baseball with 13. Next are the Pirates at 16 and at 17 are Minnesota, Houston and Texas. Is there any better indicator of Yadier Molina's defensive dominance? Very impressive.

All-Star voting flawed
It's great that Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds are among the early leaders in All-Star Game balloting. But, it's clear that voters have no idea what they are doing. Case in point: Nomar Garciaparra leads in the shortstop race despite playing in just 14 games, hitting .157 before suffering a serious groin injury at Busch on April 20. Also, Larry Walker being ahead of Bobby Abreu of the Phillies, who is only sixth in the outfield voting? Hello?

Sosa catching Mac
For the first time since missing time on the disabled list due to a staph infection in his foot, Sammy Sosa hit a home run. Wednesday night's blast was the 579th of his career. With four more, Sosa will supplant Mark McGwire as #6 all-time.

Mulder's loss rare for several reasons
The Rockies' 2-1 win Tuesday was just the 11th game in Coors Field history in which there were three or fewer runs scored. That is covering over 800 games since the park opened in 1995. In the process, Mark Mulder lost for the first time since April 13 against the Reds. In the interim, he had won seven times in eight starts prior to Tuesday.

How bad it is in Houston?
The Cardinals' upcoming opponent, the Houston Astros, are in deep doo-doo. They are 14 games behind the Cardinals with a 20-32 (.385) mark. While their season is not over mathematically, practically it is close. In other words, if the Cardinals faltered and played just .500 ball the rest of the season, the Astros would have to win at a .636 rate (70-40) to pass the Redbirds in the standings. No wonder there are rumors about Roger Clemens being traded.

Draft coming up
Major League Baseball will conduct its Amateur Player Draft this coming Tuesday and Wednesday (June 7-8). The Cardinals hold seven of the first 80 picks, including two in the first round, #28 and #30 overall. The Cardinals also have two sandwich round selections following round one, giving them four of the first 46 players to be selected. Check back for The Birdhouse's in-depth coverage.

Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month for May
Travis Hanson - 3B - Springfield Cardinals
.303 avg, 29 games, 109 AB's, 21 runs, 33 hits, 7 2B's, 1 3B, 5 HR's, 23 RBIs

Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May
Anthony Reyes – Right-handed pitcher - Memphis Redbirds
3-1, 2.06 ERA, 6 GS, 2 CG, 1 ShO, 39.1 IP, 27 H, 11 R, 9 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 32 K's
Includes complete game one-hitter on 5/19 @ Portland

Booing Edgar
Al said he didn't believe Cardinals fans will boo Edgar when he comes back to St. Louis next week. Dan said he will be booed, but gave the wrong reason, in my opinion. Dan thought it would be because Renteria said the Boston fans are best, instead of because Renteria left the Cards at the altar for more money. The revisionist history delivered by Hungo was that neither Grudz, nor Eckstein, nor Mulder would be Cardinals if Renteria had been re-signed. Sorry, but that is bull.

1997 First sacker revisited
Dan mentioned that Mabry was the incumbent first baseman prior to Mark McGwire's arrival in mid-season 1997. However, that is not the case. At first, Dmitri Young played 74 games, Mac 50 and Mabry 49 that year. Mabry played 71 games in right, his primary position that season. Later in the broadcast, Dan did mention Young and Mark Sweeney (four games) as other possibilities.

Hits by direction
FSN Midwest added a new graphic feature that shows batters' hits distribution by field. For example, Larry Walker has seven hits to left, 13 to center and 20 to right this season. An interesting addition.

Thursday's lineup
Grudzielanek, Walker, Pujols, Edmonds, Mabry (lf), Seabol (3b), Nunez (ss), Diaz and Suppan. Walker and Edmonds are back, while a banged up Molina was given the day off as were Sanders and Eckstein. Yadi is expected to be ready to play in Houston on Friday after slightly re-injuring his ankle Wednesday night.

On to the game…

Cards first - Nice start
Leading off, Grudz took a pitch in the back. He easily stole second with Pujols at the plate and one out. I really wish he wouldn't slide head-first, though. Ask Mark Loretta about that. A passed ball on the next offering put an RBI on the platter for Albert. However, he was walked, then Edmonds fanned swinging. His mini-streak seems a distant memory, as Edmonds is 0-for-9 in the series so far. So much for a hitters' haven. Anyway, Pujols took second on a wild pitch in the dirt. That led to the Rockies walking Mabry intentionally to put the possibility of a force out at any base back. Seabol made them pay with a line-drive single to left that scored two. Cards 2-0.

Rockies second – Lead halved
As light rain fell, Matt Holliday put the first pitch of the inning over the wall in left-center. Cards 2-1.

Cards third - Rain
After Garrett Atkins made a nice play on Pujols, Edmonds dropped down a bunt. Desi Relaford saved a base as the throw eluded the first baseman. Mabry flied out to center on a 3-0 pitch for the third out. With a tornado warning coming and icy rain falling, the tarp was put on the field. A 90-minute rain delay ensued.

Rockies third – Game tied
When play resumed, the first two hitters reached via singles. Cory Sullivan singled and Chacon reached via the "butcher boy" play that Hungo always talks about. After a sac, Relaford's fielders' choice scored the tying run. But, Chacon at least ran into the second out at third base. Helton's deep fly to left was the third out. Tie 2-2.

Cards fourth – Three more
Seabol earned a free pass leading off. Nunez' double put runners at second and third. Einar Diaz' blooper near the line scored them both. Diaz moved up to third on a ground out and a passed ball. Walker's bad hopper to Helton was scored a single as Diaz came home easily. Pujols sharply singled to left on a 3-0 count, but Edmonds stranded two. Still, a very nice inning. Cards 5-2.

Rockies fourth – Another dinger
Holliday homered off the left field foul pole. Cards 5-3.

Cards fifth – Stranded again
With two out, Nunez reached again on an infield single that Barmes couldn't handle. He was the sixth runner stranded in five innings.

Rockies fifth – Scoring four innings in a row
Sullivan reached via a leadoff bunt between Suppan and Pujols. Chacon was removed for a pinch-hitter. Eddy Garabito singled and Mabry's error put runners on second and third. The run scored on the first out by Barmes. A bloop single to center by Relaford scored the tying run. Edmonds fell on the throw home and reaggravated his left ankle sprain. The runner took second on the throw. He moved to third on the second out of the inning. Brad Thompson is throwing in the pen as Suppan is scheduled to lead off the sixth. Suppan carefully walked Holliday. Good move. Suppan got Hawpe to pop up to end it, but the lead was lost again. Tie 5-5.

Cards sixth – Good chance missed
Pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno singled off David Cortes leading off the inning. That ended Suppan's day with seven hits, one walk and five runs allowed, all earned. He fanned one, but allowed two home runs. A wild pitch and a Grudz sac moved Cedeno to third. Walker made the second out and Pujols was intentionally walked. Pujols took second on the third passed ball of the afternoon by catcher Todd Greene. Thank God for Yadi! Edmonds drilled a ball to right, but Hawpe hauled it in on the track. Edmonds was removed from the game in favor of So Taguchi after the at-bat.

Rockies sixth – Thompson time
Brad Thompson took over. Sullivan singled with two out, but he was forced out at second when Dustan Mohr pinch-hit for Cortes.

Cards seventh – Lead taken third time
Mabry singled leading off against new pitcher Matt Anderson and Seabol and Nunez followed with walks to load the bases. Diaz' liner was snared by Anderson for out #1. Taguchi almost homered into the left-field corner. It still brought Mabry home, but Seabol strangely did not take third. Grudz was retired for the third out. Bases loaded with one out and only one run in. Cards 6-5.

Rockies seventh – More rain
With one out, the hail returned. The game was stopped again for 35 minutes. Ray King took over for Thompson after the second rain delay of the day and retired both hitters, including fanning Helton for the third out.

Cards eighth – No insurance yet
Against Jay Witasick, Albert singled with one out. Reggie Sanders, pinch-hitting for King, fanned looking on a ball that looked to be inside and high. Pujols stole second base, but Mabry couldn't bring him home.

Rockies eighth – Reyes shines
Holliday doubled leading off against Julian Tavarez. Hawpe walked. Luis Gonzalez pinch hit. Trying to bunt, he was hit by a pitch. Even though La Russa protested, Gonzalez was awarded first to load the bases with no out. Atkins fanned on a Tavarez slider down and away. He left in favor of Al Reyes. It took Reyes one pitch to induce a 1-6 double play to escape. Excellent work!

Cards ninth – One insurance run
Against closer Brian Fuentes, Nunez walked with one out. Diaz singled and Taguchi walked to load the bases. Grudz' ground out scored Nunez. Cards 7-5.

Rockies ninth – Izzy tanks
Wilson (on an 0-2 count!) and Barmes singled against Jason Isringhausen. He walked Relaford to load the bases. Bases loaded with no out for Helton. He worked a full-count single to right that scored two. The winning run is at third with no out. Holliday was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the force play anywhere. Izzy was pulled in favor of Randy Flores. He walked home the game-winner. Rockies 8-7.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Friday at Astros: Chris Carpenter (7-3, 3.79) vs. Andy Pettitte 7:05pm FSN Midwest
Saturday at Astros: Jason Marquis (6-3, 3.39) vs. Wandy Rodriguez 3:05pm Big FOX
Sunday at Astros: Mark Mulder (7-1, 3.72) vs. Roger Clemens 1:05 pm WB11

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

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