Walton's Game Observations – Thursday

The third terrible start in a row, this one by Matt Morris, doomed the Cardinals as they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-7 Thursday night in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates.

The St. Louis Cardinals put out a very uneven effort in falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-7 Thursday night, in the first of a four-game weekend series. Losing their third straight, the Cardinals' overall record fell to 45-27 while their home record is 21-13.

Matt Morris took on David Williams. Morris continued the string of stench started by Jason Marquis and Mark Mulder on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. It was Morris' first loss of the season and his first setback against the Pirates in three years. Matty Mo couldn't get an out in the fourth inning before taking an early exit. He allowed seven hits and a walk. Only three of Morris' six runs allowed were earned, though, as Reggie Sanders made a costly fielding error to give away two runs. Sanders also made a baserunning blunder to add to his odiferous night.

The offense continued its maddening tendency to make average pitchers look like aces. They managed just six hits against the lefty Williams, who left during the seventh. Williams has never pitched into the eighth inning in 46 career starts, but almost made it this night.

The defense had three errors as normally-solid Albert Pujols and Randy Flores each had throwing miscues. The latter play cost two more runs. Overall, only four of the Pirates' runs were earned, so to say the Cardinals gave away the game is accurate.

Offensively, the Redbirds bats were generally silent until the game was already out of hand. Albert Pujols had a solo home run and drove in two. Jim Edmonds was on base three times and scored twice while So Taguchi had a pair of hits.

That's the Bucs' recent record in St. Louis prior to the game. I'd hoped it would be 0-for-16 at the end of the weekend.

Yadier Molina will be hard-pressed to continue getting hits at the rate of one every two at-bats against the Pirates, as he has season to-date prior to Thursday. But, it is still a fun stat to admire.

Three losses in a row
The Cards' current streak ties their season-worst, set May 5-7 against San Diego at home.

Big homestand here
The Cardinals began an 11-day, ten-game homestand Thursday night with the first of four games against the Pirates. Then Cincinnati comes in for two and Colorado for four. That takes us through July 3.

Thursday's lineup
Eckstein, Grudzielanek, Pujols, Sanders, Rolen, Edmonds, Taguchi (rf), Molina and Morris. Larry Walker missed his third game in four, as the herniated disk in his neck is not getting better. So Taguchi replaced him.

On to the game…

Bucs first – Quickly plunked
Morris hit Jason Bay on the knee with two outs, but he fanned clean-up hitter Rob Mackowiak for the third out. Bay came into the game hitting 6-for-12 (.500) for his career against Mo. Coincidence?

Cards first – Albert, who else?
With two down and no one on base, Albert parked his 19th home run of the season on the grass berm beyond the fence in dead center. Cards 1-0.

Bucs second – Lead lost
Starting the inning, Daryle Ward walked. I hate those lead-off walks. Jose Castillo and Jack Wilson singled to load the bases. Williams' dribbler to short was too slow for the Cards to turn a double play, so the run scored. Albert made his second nice defensive play in two innings to get the third out. Tie 1-1.

Bucs third – Morris and Sanders stink up the joint
Tyke Redman singled on a full-count pitch leading off. Bay singled to put runners on the corners. Ward's ball off the right field wall scored Redman and restocked the corners. Morris is upset at the home plate umpire over his pitch-calling. Seems to happen a lot with him. Humberto Cota's sacrifice fly scored Bay. Duncan came out after Morris' 30th pitch of the inning. Castillo singled to move Redman to second. Reggie Sanders made a terrible play as he dropped Jack Wilson's line drive on the track in left and then overthrew the cutoff man, allowing the second runner to score. Morris threw 47 pitches this inning before retiring his opposite number, Williams, on a second 3-2 count. What in the heck is going on here? Bucs 5-1.

Bucs fourth – No Mo
With Lawton leading off, Pujols made a poor throw to Morris covering first. Albert received an error. Redman singled and La Russa pulled Morris right then and there after 87 pitches. It was his shortest start of the season. Cal Eldred took over. He walked Ward to load the bases. Humberto Cota singled one home, but the combination of Sanders throw and Molina blocking the plate, Redman was called out. Bucs 6-1.

Cards fifth
Home plate umpire Rick Reed was unable to continue in the 94 degree heat after experiencing dizziness following his being struck in the head by a foul ball. The game was delayed while second base ump Ted Barrett donned the mask and padding. Eleven Cards in a row went down since the last baserunner until Edmonds' one-out single. Molina just missed a home run as his ball bounced off the screen in left. The double scored Edmonds easily. Bucs 6-2.

Bucs sixth – Flores lets it get away
Randy Flores walked Lawton and Redman leading off. Bay singled to load the bases. Mackowiak's shot off Flores turned to disaster, as Flores collected the ball, but threw home wildly as two runs scored. Sacrifice flies by Ward and Cota each scored a run. This is hard to watch. Castillo homered. More booing by the Busch frustrated faithful. Bucs 11-2.

Cards sixth – More slop from Sanders
Eckstein singled with one out. He scored as Sanders' catchable ball was dropped by Redman for a two-base error. But, Sanders made another terrible blunder as he was out trying to take third. What in the heck is he thinking? Bucs 11-3.

Bucs seventh – No more scores at least
Redman singled again with two out, but was stranded.

Cards seventh – Too little, too late
Rolen led off with a double. Edmonds followed with a walk. Taguchi then stroked an RBI single. A force play erased So and should have been a double play, except for a missed call at first that was in the Cards' favor. It didn't matter. Bucs 11-4.

Cards eighth - Listless
Grudz walked leading off and was erased in a Pujols' fielders' choice grounder. The offense looks listless.

Bucs ninth – Even the pitcher
Pitcher Salomon Torres singled off Julian Tavarez with two outs. Why not? Maybe the batboy can take a few swings. The Bucs have an even dozen hits.

Cards ninth – Last gasp
Edmonds doubled on a ball that Bay could have caught starting off the inning. So's single put runners on the corners. Pinch-hitter Abraham Nunez' fielders' choice scored a run. The Pirates are happy to trade outs for runs. Einar Diaz' pinch-hit double scored Nunez. Eckstein drew a walk and Grudz was hit to load the bases. Grudz was checked out, but stayed in the game. Torres left, however. Diaz scored on a sac fly, but Rick White got Sanders to fly out to the track to collect the save. Cards 11-7.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Friday vs. Pirates: Jeff Suppan vs. Kip Wells 7:10 pm FSNM
Saturday vs. Pirates: Chris Carpenter vs. Mark Redman 6:15 pm WB11
Sunday vs. Pirates: Jason Marquis vs. Oliver Perez 1:15 pm WB11

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

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