Walton's Game Observations – Monday – Cards 10-3

Matt Morris led the Cardinals over the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-3 Monday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-3 Monday afternoon in the first of a four-game series in the desert, or should I say at Bank One Ballpark? The Cardinals' overall record is 22 games over .500 for the first time at 52-30 while their National League Central lead over the Cubs also bulged to a season-high 11-1/2 games.

Matt Morris took on Brandon Webb. The latter has a chance to make the All-Star squad as the 32nd NL player. The former proved he is a better pitcher, winning his tenth, but has to stay home next week. Morris didn't let it bother him as he allowed just one run on six hits in seven innings.

Two RBIs were the name of the game, as Scott Rolen stroked a two-run double. Pinch-hitters So Taguchi and Abraham Nunez also plated two each, as did John Mabry, who went 4-for-4. Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to 16 games.

What's good
From our Canadian friend Rob Blackstein at www.creativesports.com, here is some good news about the Cardinals: Albert Pujols continues to roll along with a 14-game hitting streak. He's now batting .339 and needs just over 100 hits to reach 1,000 for his career already! Over this streak, he's at .404 with 21 hits. Jason Marquis might not be pitching that well lately (0-3, 17 ER in 20.1 IP before a good start Saturday), but he's batting .390 for the season with a homer and seven RBI.

And what's not so good
St. Louis is actually under .500 (5-6) over its past 11 games, so haven't been able to increase the NL Central lead to double digits. The Cards are just 11-15 this year when they fail to go yard and they rank 15th in the NL in sacrifices. Scott Rolen is in a 9 for 39 skid, dropping to .250 for the year. A lifetime .285 hitter, he's never batted lower than .254, and even then, that was in just 130 at-bats in his first season with the Phillies. Jim Edmonds has managed just two hits in his past 17 at-bats, while striking out eight times. He's now fanned 71 times this year. After batting almost .330 in May, David Eckstein managed just a .265 mark in June. His .301 BA heading into the month has dropped to .290. Mark Grudzielanek is slumping badly, with just 20 hits in his past 106 at-bats. He was batting .351 in mid-May and is now under 290. John Mabry is batting only .196 over his past 66 at-bats. He's down to .246 for the season after sitting at over .350 in late-May.

All-Star selections ok
It is impossible to select a team that will make everyone happy, but the NL squad isn't bad. Cardinals fans should be happy to have three elected starters (Edmonds and Eckstein) and one selected starter (Pujols) plus two reserves (Carpenter and Izzy). I would have like to see the Astros' Morgan Ensberg get the nod over a third shortstop, Cesar Izturis, but that is about it. My final pick would be a coin flip between Billy Wagner and Roy Oswalt.

Happy Birthday, Jose
Third base coach Jose Oquendo turned 42 years old Monday.

Series history favors Redbirds
The Cardinals were 5-1 against the D'Backs last season, including a three-game sweep at Bank One Ballpark. Historically, the Cards own a 31-19 advantage overall, of which 14-12 is their edge at the D'Backs' home park.

Congrats to the other Cardinals All-Stars
By now, everyone knows about the Cardinals' six players selected to play in Detroit next week along with their manager. But, there are nine more. Coaches Dave Duncan, Joe Pettini, Jose Oquendo, George Kissell (replacing the injured Dave McKay) and Marty Mason will also make the trek as will trainer Barry Weinberg and batting practice pitcher John Lackey. Media relations director Brian Bartow and one of his assistants, Jim Anderson, a former Tigers' employee, also have been selected to participate.

Two games ahead of 2004
At the half-way point, the good news is that the Cards' 50-31 mark after 81 games is superior to the 48-33 record last season. However, the Cards played lights out in July and August in 2004 at a pace that will be almost impossible to duplicate.

Monday's lineup –Sanders still out
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Walker, Rolen, Mabry (lf), Grudzielanek, Molina and Morris. David Eckstein returned. Reggie Sanders missed his third straight game with an ankle sprain and John Mabry got the start to replace him. Sanders is available to pinch hit and is expected to play Tuesday.

On to the game…

Cards second – Out on top
Larry Walker led off with a double off the top of the wall in center. He took third on a ground out and scored on a Mabry RBI single. Grudz singled past second base. At least Morris worked a full count before being retired for the third out. Cards 1-0.

D'Backs second – Trouble averted
Shawn Green slapped a ground-rule double leading off. Slugger Troy Glaus just missed a two-run homer before getting called out on a check swing. The replay showed the Cards got a good call. Green was stranded.

Cards third – Rolen is
Edmonds drew a one-out walk. Pujols ground into what should have been an inning-ending double play, except first baseman Chad Tracy missed the bag. Albert stole second before Walker took a free base. Rolen continued his hot hitting with a two-run double. Mabry added another RBI single, as the Cards are going after Webb's first offerings. Cards 4-0.

D'Backs fifth – Mo turns back threat
Morris hit Glaus pitch leading off. Jose Cruz singled for just the second Arizona hit. Instead of trying to get the lead run on former Cardinal Royce Clayton's grounder, Grudz tried but failed to get the lead runner at third. But, he did get the man at second to put runners on the corners. Mo fanned Chris Snyder for the second out. He also got Webb on strike three to end the inning. They were Morris' fourth and fifth K's of the day.

Cards sixth – Mabry hot
Mabry worked a one-out hit and moved up on a wild pitch. He was stranded, though.

D'Backs sixth – Shutout lost
Tracy doubled with one out. Green's ball popped out of Grudz' glove to put runners on the corners. Glaus' two-out single scored Tracy. There was a harmless bench clearing incident when Morris may have suggested baserunners were signaling hitters. Cards 4-1.

Cards seventh – One more
With one out, Eckstein reached on a bunt single to Glaus, who threw the ball away. Eckstein took second and later scored on a two-out single by Albert. Cards 5-1.

D'Backs seventh – Webb out
Quinton McCracken singled with two out, pinch-hitting for Webb. He was stranded.

Cards eighth – Dam broken
Former closer Greg Aquino took over and was ineffective. A walk to Rolen followed by Mabry and Molina singles loaded the sacks. Abraham Nunez, pinch-hitting for Morris, doubled two home. After an Eckstein walk, Aquino left in favor of Javier Lopez. He served up a pinch-hit double to So Taguchi. After Albert was given an intentional pass, Hector Luna pinch-hit for Walker and ground into a double play. Cards 9-1

D'Backs eighth – Thompson touched
Brad Thompson got two outs before trouble struck. Green doubled and scored on a Glaus home run. Cruz singled before Thompson fanned Clayton. They were the first runs Thompson had allowed in a month and had eight perfect consecutive appearances coming in. Cards 9-3.

Cards ninth – One more time
Rolen singled and Mabry walked. They moved up on a Grudz ground out. Rolen scored on a Molina sac fly. Cards 10-3.

D'Backs ninth – Cal cool
Cal Eldred retired his three hitters in order to close out the win.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Tuesday @ Diamondbacks: Jeff Suppan vs. Shawn Estes 8:40pm FSNM
Wednesday @ Diamondbacks: Chris Carpenter vs. Javier Vazquez 9:10pm FSNM/ESPN2
Thursday @ Diamondbacks: Jason Marquis vs. Claudio Vargas 8:40pm FSNM

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

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories