Walton's Game Observations – Sunday

The Cardinals bullpen and an ineffective offense caused a 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals coughed up the lead late, losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates by 5-4 score in ten innings Sunday afternoon. The Cards disappointingly split the four-game weekend series two each. The Cardinals' overall record is now 47-28 while their National League Central lead over the Cubs was back to eight-and-one-half games.

Jason Marquis came back from a pair of rough road outings to pitch six decent innings, allowing three runs. He again did not strike out a batter. Still, Marquis was in place to get his ninth win until Jason Isringhausen blew his second save of the season when he allowed Jason Bay's second home run of the day in the ninth. Al Reyes took the loss in the tenth, serving up a long ball to Jose Castillo.

The weekend long ball barrage continued, as they have hit ten in the last three games. Yadier Molina continued his hot hitting with two hits, including his third home run in three days, and three RBI. Reggie Sanders was on base three times with a single, walk and solo home run. Abraham Nunez had two singles and a double. Returnee Hector Luna walked, stole a base and scored a run.

Father – Kid Game Sunday
The Cardinal fathers faced their children in the annual contest prior to the game.

Wanted: Outfielders
Hector Luna was the designated infielder playing the outfield Sunday. I wonder why the Cardinals seem to be the only team who can't find enough players to play out there. By the way, outfielder Raul Gonzalez has major league experience and is a Triple-A All-Star for Memphis. Gonzalez is tied for sixth in the Pacific Coast League with a .338 batting average.

45 for 45
Not surprisingly, Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson took off the #45 from the Busch Stadium Countdown Clock on Sunday.

The Next Pudge?
Bob Carpenter wondered out loud whether Yadier Molina will be the next Pudge Rodriguez. C'mon.

Sunday's lineup – Three big guns silent
Eckstein, Taguchi (cf), Pujols, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Luna (rf), Nunez (3b), Molina and Marquis. Larry Walker is still out due to the herniated disk in his neck. He's due to get a cortisone shot in hopes of getting relief. Jim Edmonds took the afternoon off as Scott Rolen also took a planned day of rest.

On to the game…

Bucs first – Bay held at bay
Jason Bay doubled into right field with two outs. Molina took exception when Daryle Ward apparently was receiving signs from Bay, who was peeking at Molina. The bullpens emptied as Bucs' manager Lloyd McClendon went ballistic with the umpires. Ward popped out on the next pitch.

Cards first – Strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out
Eckstein led off with a walk. After just missing a home run, Albert fanned for the second out as Eckstein was thrown out trying to take second on the full-count.

Cards second – Two homers, three runs
Reggie Sanders got the inning started right when he homered to right-center while leading off. It was his 15th homer of the season. Castillo made a nice defensive play on his opposite number, Grudzielanek, for the first out. Nunez doubled with two outs, a one-hopper off the way in left-center, and he came home on a Molina home run into the Bucs' bullpen. Molina got a curtain call. Cards 3-0.

Bucs third – Marquis gives it right back
The pitcher, Perez, singled with one out. Lawton walked and they all came home as Bay went deep into the Bucs' pen. Marquis doesn't seem to have it as two of these runs were gimmies. Tie 3-3.

Cards third – Disconnected action
Eckstein walked but was removed via a So-started double play. Albert singled via a deep popup to left that sawed off his bat, but was taken out via a force play.

Cards fourth – Blunders on the bases
Luna walked on four pitches with one out and stole second base. Good to see him walking and running. Nunez also walked. Molina looked to have doubled, but never got that far. Nunez apparently thought the ball was caught and headed back toward first. Molina must have had his head down and passed him on the basepaths. Molina was automatically out and Nunez was tagged out to end the inning. After another umpire conference allowed Luna's score. Cards 4-3.

Bucs fifth – Another twin killing
Jack Wilson led off with a single, but he was erased in an inning-ending double play.

Cards fifth – More of the same
Marquis singled off the pitcher Perez' foot for his 14th hit of the season. He's hitting .368 on the year. So ground into another double play, his second of the day.

Cards sixth – No clutch this time
Sanders walked with one out, but he was stranded.

Bucs seventh – Thompson perfect
After Rob Mackowiak singled leading off, Marquis was replaced by Brad Thompson. Brad again tossed a spotless inning under pressure, but had some help as Sanders caught Jose Castillo's ball at the top of the wall. Marquis can only win.

Cards seventh – No execution
Nunez singled leading off. Perez was removed. Molina couldn't execute the bunt (why was he even trying in this situation) and Scott Rolen couldn't deliver the run as a pinch-hitter, striking out swinging.

Bucs eighth – Pen doing job
Ray King (two outs) and Julian Tavarez (one) combined to pitch a scoreless frame.

Cards eighth – Great chance clipped
Edmonds walked, pinch-hitting for So. He stole second uncontested on a missed hit and run, but that took the bat out of Albert's hands, as he was walked intentionally. Sanders loaded the sacks when his infield bunt single was successful. But, with no one out, Grudz (double play) and Luna could not deliver the runs.

Bucs ninth – Izzy caves in
Leading off, Jason Bay homered into the Cards bullpen off closer Jason Isringhausen. Luna might have had a chance to bring it back if he had gotten back to the wall, but such is life when guys play out of position. Ward was walked, but was caught by Molina trying to steal. The damage was done. Tie 4-4.

Cards ninth – Excellent chance for win missed
Nunez singled off the pitcher, moved up on a sac and took third on a wild pitch. Rolen took a free pass. Pinch-hitter Larry Walker and Edmonds both popped out. Ugh! Runner on third with no out and couldn't score?

Bucs tenth - Reyes rotten
Al Reyes earned the loss quickly, as he allowed a homer to left by Jose Castillo leading off. Lawton was hit by a pitch with two outs but was caught trying to steal. Bucs 5-4.

Cards tenth – Last chance to win blown
Albert singled. Sanders fanned. Grudz singled. Pinch-hitter John Mabry ground into the game-ending double play.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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
Saturday vs. Rockies: Jason Marquis vs. Jamey Wright 6:15pm FSNM
Sunday vs. Rockies: Mark Mulder vs. Jason Jennings 1:15pm WB11

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

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