Walton's Game Observations – Friday

Jeff Suppan, So Taguchi and Jim Edmonds led the Cardinals over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 Friday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals put three bad games behind them while defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 Friday night. The four-game weekend series is tied one game apiece. The Cardinals' overall record improved to 46-27 while their National League Central lead over the Cubs increased to nine-and-one-half games.

Jeff Suppan took on Kip Wells. Suppan pitched a great game, with a two-hit shutout through eight. He tired in the ninth, but earned his seventh win of the season. Ray King did a nice job escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam to end the game.

Wells didn't pitch badly, but gave up three long balls – to So Taguchi, Jim Edmonds (two-run shot) and Yadier Molina. In the eighth, both Edmonds and Taguchi added their second homers of the night, a pair of two-run blasts off reliever Mike Johnston. The five home runs were more than enough for the Cardinals on this evening. On the down side, John Mabry fanned three times during an 0-for-4 night.

It is not that bad
Despite the last three dreadful performances by the starting pitchers, the Cardinals entered Friday's game as the National League's team ERA leader with a 3.68 mark. On the other side of the ledger, their hitters are tied for third among NL teams in batting (.273) and have scored a senior league-best 375 runs (5.2 runs/game).

Not a full house
St. Louis ended a sellout string of nine straight home games Thursday night, though the announced crowd was a substantial 43,590. The nine consecutive sellouts were the most by the Cards since 1998, when Mark McGwire-mania helped fuel 14 straight sellouts at Busch Stadium encompassing all home games played in the month of September. This season, the Cardinals have drawn 1,410,930 in attendance, which ranks third in the N.L. behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Edmonds extension?
Dan McLaughlin reported that Jim Edmonds is engaged in talks with the Cards to pick up his 2007 option and wants to sign a contract extension that would carry him beyond that 2007 option year. Edmonds is being paid $10 million this season, $12 million next and the team option for 2007 is $10 million or a $3 million buyout. While Hungo agreed with an extension, I am not in favor of it at this time. The 2007 option is fine, but at the end of that time, Edmonds will be 38 years old, the same age as Larry Walker is now. Committing to Edmonds beyond that point this far out would not be a good idea.

Soup deserves run support
When Suppan is on the mound, he has received just 4.5 runs of support on average. That is the lowest among the five starters. The offense has scored three or fewer runs in six of his 14 starts prior to Friday.

Friday's lineup
Eckstein, Grudzielanek, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Mabry (rf), Taguchi (lf), Molina and Suppan. Larry Walker missed his fourth game in five, as the herniated disk in his neck is not getting better. Reggie Sanders also took the night off.

On to the game…

Bucs third – A little action
#8 hitter Jack Wilson singled leading off, representing the first baserunner of the evening. He was stranded.

Cards third – A runner
Taguchi had a nice shot to the track in the left center, but Rob Mackowiak hauled it in. Jeff Suppan became the Cardinals' first baserunner when he was walked with two out.

Cards fourth – Payback from last night?
Albert was hit by a pitch with one out.

Cards fifth – So nice
So homered just into the bullpen in left to break up the no-hitter and the shutout. Starved for anything to cheer about, the sellout crowd demanded a curtain call. Suppan followed with a double down the left field line. Cards 1-0.

Bucs sixth – Grudz flashes leather
Grudz made a diving stop to his left to retire the final batter of the inning. A very nice play.

Cards sixth - Edmonds goes deep
Pujols walked with one out. He scored as Edmonds hit an opposite field home run to the same general vicinity as Taguchi's shot. Another curtain call, albeit short, ensued. It was Edmonds' first homer since June 7. Rolen singled. Cards 3-0.

Cards seventh – Molina joins fun
Leading off the seventh, Yadier Molina also homered to left, but his ball made it into the seats. Eckstein singled with one out, but he was erased in a double play. Cards 4-0.

Bucs eighth – Soup still sailing
Humberto Cota singled leading off. It was just the second hit and third baserunner for the Pirates. Jose Castillo ground into a 6-4-3.

Cards eighth – Edmonds again!
Albert singled to start the inning and again came home as Edmonds slammed another home run. This one went deep to right. Another curtain call was expected. Rolen again singled. John Mabry whiffed a third time. Cards 8-0.

Bucs ninth – Soup done
Pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Matt Lawton singled. Freddy Sanchez' single brought Doumit home. Mackowiak's one-out single loaded the bases and ended Suppan's night. Ray King got the call and didn't allow a run to come home, as the game ended on a double play. Cards 8-1.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Saturday vs. Pirates: Chris Carpenter vs. Mark Redman 6:15 pm WB11
Sunday vs. Pirates: Jason Marquis vs. Oliver Perez 1:15 pm WB11
Monday: Off day
Tuesday vs. Reds: Mark Mulder vs. Brandon Claussen 7:10pm FSNM
Wednesday vs. Reds: Matt Morris vs. Ramon Ortiz 7:10pm FSNM
Thursday vs. Rockies: Jeff Suppan vs. Jeff Francis 7:10pm FSNM
Friday vs. Rockies: Chris Carpenter vs. Joe Kennedy 7:10pm FSNM

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

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