Walton's Game Observations – Thursday –Rockies 7-0

The Cardinals dropped an uninspiring 7-0 game to the Colorado Rockies Thursday night. It was truly a team defeat as the pitching, offense and defense all failed against the worst team in the league.

The St. Louis Cardinals fell with a huge thud to the Colorado Rockies by a 7-0 margin Thursday night, in the first of a four-game weekend series. The Cardinals' overall record is back to 20 games over .500 at 49-29 while their National League Central lead over the Cubs remains eight-and-one-half games.

Apparently, while we weren't looking, the two teams were exchanged, as the Cards played like the team who came in with the worst record in the National League and the Rockies played like champions.

Jeff Suppan took on second-year starter Jeff Francis. Suppan was awful, allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks in four-plus innings. His record dropped to 7-7 with the loss. Francis, on the other hand, was masterful. Another lefty exploited the Cardinals' hitters as Francis allowed just three hits and two walks in six shutout innings.

The lifeless Cardinals offense seemed very impatient against Francis. That was the case except for Albert Pujols, who collected both of Francis' walks, one of the singles and stole a base. However, Albert also had an error at first base and made another fielding mistake that cost the final two runs. The leadoff man did not reach in any inning. Yadier Molina had two passed balls in one inning. Jim Edmonds fanned three times before doubling in the eighth. So Taguchi had a single, a double and a stolen base.

Are you glad it is Arizona's problem?
Just after being named California League Player of the Week, shortstop Stephen Drew was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Not surprisingly, his big brother J.D. has missed a number of recent Dodgers games with a bum knee.

Happy Birthday, Mark!
Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek turns 35 today.

Series this season
The Cards are meeting the Rockies this week for the second of their two series meetings Totaling eight games in 2005. They split a four-game series from May 30 - June 2 at Coors Field.

Series history
The Cards were 5-1 (2-1 at Busch) against Colorado in 2004. Surprisingly, the Cards trail the all-time series between the two clubs, 60-56, with each team winning 27 games at Busch Stadium. The Cards have lost two of the last three series with the Rockies in St. Louis.

Homer happy
The Cardinals have hit 16 home runs in the first six games of this homestand, including five last Friday in the 8-1 win versus Pittsburgh and four in the 11-3 win Wednesday night over Cincinnati. The Cards have hit a total of 33 home runs in 26 June games, good for fifth among National League teams this month.

No mo Wily Mo, thank yo
Wednesday night, Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena slammed a home run that was estimated at 492 feet, making it the longest by an opposing player and tenth longest at Busch since measurements began to be kept in 1988.

Another winning month on tap
With a 16-10 record in June not including Thursday, the Cardinals have assured themselves of their ninth consecutive winning month. That includes three this year plus six straight in 2004. The last time they posted nine consecutive winning months was from June 1986 - August 1987.

Road dogs
In fact, the Rockies are a whole pack of them with a MLB-worst 5-31 road record this season. Their overall win count of 26 ties the Royals for the lowest in MLB.

Suppan factoid #1 – Night life liked
Thursday night is Suppan's 11th start this season at night and ninth at home. He has a 6-3 record with a 3.11 ERA during night starts, but is only 1-3, 6.51 during the day.

Suppan factoid #2 – It all balances out
Remember last season, when Suppan was so much better on the road? He was 10-1 with a 3.55 ERA away from Busch last year. Yep, it is just the opposite this season. He has won five straight decisions at home in six starts with a 2.77 ERA over this span. Overall, he is 5-2, 3.47 ERA at home and 2-4, 4.93 away.

Homestand update
The Cardinals move into the final series of the current 11-day, ten-game homestand Thursday night. The Cards are 4-2 so far on the homestand, sweeping a two-game series from the Reds and splitting a four-game set with the Pirates.

Home cooking still tastes good
Overall, the Cards' home mark coming into Thursday is 25-14. They've won 15 of their last 20 and 17 of the last 23 at Busch.

Sutter on the Clock
Former Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter was appropriately given the honor to remove #42 from the Busch Stadium Countdown Clock Thursday night.

Thursday's lineup – So for Larry
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Sanders, Rolen, Grudzielanek, Taguchi (rf), Molina and Suppan. Larry Walker got another night off with the lefty on the mound. So Taguchi again replaced him in right for the 23rd time this season. Jim Edmonds may be taking Friday off as Walker returns.

On to the game…

Rockies first – Just call him Sully or Sullen
Cory Sullivan singled leading off the game. Former Cardinal and Rockies analyst called him "Jeff". A hit and run moved Sullivan up, but Suppan made a big pitch to fan Todd Helton and then caught Sullivan taking off for third for the final out.

Cards first – Albert extends streaks
Albert drew a free pass with two out. His on-base streak is now 15 games. Despite the lefty on the mound, Albert stole second for his seventh successful attempt in seven tries this season. But, Sanders was retired to end it.

Rockies second – Atkins fattens up
Garrett Atkins homered into the left center seats with one out. Brad Hawpe followed with a single, but a double play ended all that. It is the third game in a row that the opposition has taken the lead. Rockies 1-0.

Rockies third – Soup sputtering
Catcher Danny Ardoin's line drive to left field meant the second solo home run in two innings. Suppan hadn't given up a homer in his previous two starts. Suppan's opposite number, Francis singled. He only had one other hit in his entire career! That rightly caused Duncan to visit the mound. Francis was sacrificed up to second. Aaron Miles reached on a ball that handcuffed Pujols at first that put runners on the corners. Pujols was correctly charged with an error. Helton took a walk to load the bases. Duncan would probably like to come out and visit again. Suppan then walked Preston Wilson to force a run home on a borderline pitch. Al Reyes was throwing, but wasn't needed as Rolen made a nice play to start an inning-ending double play. Suppan is approaching 60 pitches thrown already. Rockies 3-0.

Rockies fourth – Dogging instead of Hawpeing
Hawpe slammed a ball off the top of the left field wall. He must have been in his home run trot, as Sanders' great throw held him to a very, very long single. A 1-4-3 ended the frame.

Cards fourth – No hitter ends, but not shutout
Albert singled with one out to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He was the last previous Cardinal baserunner, back in the first. Rolen singled to left with two down. He has just six hits in ten starts since coming off the disabled list. Only one hit has been for extra bases. Grudz hit the first pitch he saw for a single. Oquendo waved Albert home, but Sullivan's throw nailed him by a country mile.

Rockies fifth – Soup's done
Unbelievable. Francis doubled over Edmonds' head to triple his career hit count in two at-bats. Sullivan's single put runners at the corners with no out. Cal Eldred began to throw. Miles' RBI single just split Grudz and Eck. That was it for Suppan. Eldred induced a 6-4-3 off Helton as Sullivan took third. But, Atkins singled to score the run. The Cards have four twin killings in five innings, which shows how many Rockies have been on base. Rockies 5-0.

Cards sixth – Looking lifeless
Edmonds fanned for the third time in the game. He seems to be whining to the home plate umpire about pitches. I really wish he wouldn't do that. Albert coaxed a walk after an 11-pitch at-bat. It would be nice if someone else could get on base. Albert has been on every time. Sanders whiffed for the final out.

Rockies seventh – Reyes solid
In his second inning of work, Al Reyes allowed a harmless two-out single to Helton. It was his only baserunner allowed. A nice job for Al, and Cal, too, to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Cards seventh – Two on, but none in
Former Astros whipping boy Dan Miceli came in to start the inning. Finally! So singled with two out and swiped second base. Molina drew a walk to finally get two runners on base again. But, pinch-hitter Abraham Nunez ground weakly to second.

Rockies eighth – Cards fall asleep
Hawpe walked with one out against Carmen Cali. Chasing Desi Relaford's pop foul, Albert seemed to bang his knee on the rolled-up tarp, dropping the ball in the process. He fell to the ground, got up slowly, and returned to his defensive position. Molina may have forgotten Hawpe was on base, as he didn't chase a ball that got away, enabling Hawpe to move up. Ardoin reached on an infield single as Albert pulled his foot on the bag before the ball was there. It would have been the third out. Pinch-hitter Luis Gonzalez' shot got into the corner before Sanders could cut it off. Two more runs came in. Another passed ball by Molina, his second of the inning, allowed Gonzalez to take third before the third out was finally captured. The Cards looked totally inept that inning. Rockies 7-0.

Cards eighth – Too little, too late
With one out, Edmonds doubled to left off Jay Witasick. Albert fanned, taking two nasty sliders in a row and Sanders weakly grounded out.

Cards ninth – Prolonging the agony
So doubled into the left center gap with two outs before Einar Diaz flied out on the first pitch to end the whipping.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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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