Walton's Game Observations – Sunday

The Cardinals lost to the Astros 6-4 Sunday afternoon, but still won the series, two games to one.

The St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park by the score of 6-4 Sunday afternoon. The Redbirds' record is an NL-best 36-20 and their road mark is still an MLB-best 19-10. The Cards won the series, two games to one.

Mark Mulder failed in his attempt for his eighth win. Instead, he lost his second in a row after seven straight wins. He faced Roger Clemens. Last year, the tables were turned in the All-Star Game, but on this day, Clemens was the better pitcher – slightly. Mulder didn't get an out in the fourth before being pulled – his shortest outing of the season.

"Ten Run" Field, er Enron Field, er Minute Maid Park, lived up to its name. Clemens allowed four runs in five innings in his worst outing of the year, but still got the win. Mulder allowed eight hits and a walk in three-plus innings, including two home runs. He fanned no one – a new season low.

The final six innings were an opportunity for relievers to get in extra work. Scoring ended in the third. Al Reyes and Randy Flores each put up two shutout innings.

Nine of the Cards'11 hits were collected by David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Mark Grudzielanek, but only one was for extra bases – a two-run double by Grudz in the first inning. Yadier Molina chipped in his first-ever major league triple (not a typo) and second in his professional career at any level.

June swoon?
Don't look now, but the Chicago Cubs have won nine of ten to improve their record to 30-25. They're just 5-1/2 games out of first. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has started to hit, with four three-hit games this past week, joining early Triple Crown threat Derrek Lee as a force in the Cubs' line-up.

Walker in deep slump
Including Sunday's 0-for-4, Larry Walker is 5-for-34 (.147) over the last two weeks. He fanned three times Sunday and stranded four baserunners. Hitting fourth didn't seem to help one iota.

Hard to be too upset
Even with the loss Sunday, the Cards are 6-2 against the Astros this season. Most years, we'd be ecstatic with that. In fact, in 2004, the Cards won only eight of eighteen against them in the regular season.

AL East, here we come
After facing the Red Sox and Yankees at home this week, the Cardinals travel to meet two more AL Eastern Division foes. They have road games scheduled in Toronto (June 13-15) and Tampa Bay (June 17-19).

Winning road trip
Even with Sunday's loss, the Cardinals ended the seven-game road trip with a winning record (4-3). That is a formula for winning one's division.

Sunday's lineup
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Walker, Grudzielanek, Mabry, Nunez (3b), Molina and Mulder. Walker hopped up to the cleanup spot, as Reggie Sanders must have been tired after his perfect day Saturday..

On to the game…

Cards first – Nice start
Eckstein had a leadoff walk, Edmonds singled and Albert stroked a run-scoring single. With runners at second and third and one out, Grudzielanek came through. He doubled in two more runs. Cards 3-0.

Astros first – Mulder abused early
Willy Taveras led off with single. Rookie Chris Burke doubled and Craig Biggio brought home Taveras with a sacrifice fly. Lance Berkman followed with an RBI on a fielders' choice that drove in Burke, who avoided Molina's tag attempt at home. Morgan Ensberg creamed a ball to left that was estimated at 384 feet for two runs and Jason Lane also went deep for back-to-back shots. I am not feeling too well about this. Astros 5-3.

Cards second – Molina triples!
Yadi led off the inning with a triple. He scored on a Mulder sacrifice. Eckstein and Edmonds singled. But, Albert ground into a double play to end it. Ugh. Astros 5-4.

Astros second – One on
Taveras singled again with one out, but was stranded. That is better.

Cards second – Another chance
Grudz got into scoring position with one out as he singled and moved up when second baseman playing in the outfield Burke made a throwing error (sound familiar?). Neither Mabry nor Nunez could get the run in.

Astros third – Ensberg and Lane again
Ensberg doubled with one out and Lane singled him home. Lane moved up on a wild pitch, but at least he didn't score. Astros 6-4.

Astros fourth – Mulder chased
Clemens walked! Taveras was on a third time with a bunt single. Exit Mulder. Al Reyes did a nice job not letting them score.

Rest of the game
Almost nothing happened. The Cards managed four more singles, but never more than one in an inning. The Cardinals' relievers allowed just three more hits, but since they didn't have to pitch the ninth, that means a loss was in order. Let's get the Red Sox on Monday!

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Monday vs. Red Sox: Matt Morris (6-0, 3.81) vs. Tim Wakefield 7:10 pm FSNM & ESPN2
Tuesday vs. Red Sox: Jeff Suppan (4-5, 4.41) vs. Matt Clement 7:10 pm FSN Midwest
Wednesday vs. Red Sox: Chris Carpenter vs. David Wells 7:10 pm FSNM & ESPN2
Thursday: Open Friday vs. Yankees: Jason Marquis vs. Chien-Ming Wang 7:10pm FSNM
Saturday vs. Yankees: Mark Mulder vs. Kevin Brown 2:05pm Big FOX
Sunday vs. Yankees: Matt Morris vs. Randy Johnson 1:15pm WB11

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

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