Walton's Game Observations – Sunday – Cards 4-3

In their final pre-All-Star break contest, the Cardinals used solid defense to defeat the San Francisco Giants 4-3 Sunday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the San Francisco Giants 4-3 Sunday night to win the three-game weekend series two games to one. The Cardinals ended the road trip with a 5-2 record, allowing their opponents just 13 runs in those seven games.

The Cards go into the break with an overall mark of 56-32 and a lead of 11-1/2 games over the Astros and 12-1/2 games over the Cubs. It is their largest lead at the break in the history of the franchise and their best record at this point since 1987.

Jeff Suppan faced lefty Noah Lowry. It was nice to see the Cards offense get to Lowry for four runs, given their problems with lefties this season. Suppan allowed nine runs and a walk in 6-1/3 innings. When he left, the Giants had only one run, but Ray King allowed both inherited runners to score. Still, Soup got his ninth win as Jason Isringhausen earned save #23 after putting the potential tying and winning runs on base.

Suppan helped his cause with the bat, singling twice and collecting an RBI. Einar Diaz plated two with a double and scored. Reggie Sanders had two hits, stole a base and scored a run.

The defense was excellent again, with great plays by Scott Rolen, Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, David Eckstein and Einar Diaz. Jim Edmonds erased a runner at the plate and Diaz threw out a potential basestealer.

Sunday's lineup
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Sanders, Rolen, Walker, Grudzielanek, Diaz and Suppan. Sanders, Diaz and Walker returned after a day off.

On to the game…

Cards first – Doubled up
As he often seems to do, Edmonds walked with one out. But, what followed was rare, as Albert ground into an inning-ending double play.

Giants first – Even when they do good, they do bad
Speedy leadoff man Alex Sanchez beat out a bunt. Omar Vizquel singled to right and Sanchez took third. When Walker tried to catch him at third, Vizquel moved up. Even though there was only one out, the Giants got greedy and were burned as a result. Lance Niekro collected the third straight hit. Sanchez scored easily, but Vizquel was easily nailed at the plate. Why did they test Edmonds? Fools! Sure enough, the next hitter, Alou hit a fly ball that would have driven Vizquel in if he had been held at third. Giants 1-0.

Cards second – Back at them
On a lazy fly to short right, second baseman Ray Durham lost the ball and rightfielder Sanchez wasn't running hard to back him up. Sanchez tried a basket catch, but Willie Mays he ain't. It was originally announced as a three-base error, which was the right call. However, the play was later changed to a triple. Rolen's ground out to short scored the run. Walker singled sharply to right. Grudz' popup went to Sanchez, but he lost it in the sun. It bounced and went past him. Rolen ended up at third and Grudz hustled to second on the single and error. Diaz shot a ball down the line past third. His double scored two. Suppan slapped a first-pitch single to center to score Diaz. A double play ended the fun. Cards 4-1.

Giants second – The inning for great plays
Saturday night, Edmonds made a great play in the second inning. This time, it was Rolen. Pedro Feliz shot a ball past third, but Rolen dived for it, and threw him out from his knees while in foul ground. What defense!

Cards third – Rough inning
As good as the previous at-bats went well, things went poorly this time. Edmonds singled to right leading off. He tried to steal second, and looked to be safe, but was called out. Albert then fanned, for just the 36th time this season.

Giants third – Redbird defense remains hot
With one out, Sanchez again bunted for a single, but despite his speed found himself on the lead end of a 3-6-3.

Giants fourth – Now it is Einar with the defense
Niekro singled leading off. He was erased on a strike-‘em out, throw-‘em out double play started by Alou. Niekro and Grudz collided at second, as Niekro took the brunt of it. Durham walked.

Giants fifth – Are the Cards that good or the Giants that bad?
Matheny doubled into the left field corner leading off. Jason Ellison's single put runners at the corners. Being safe this time, Matheny was held at third with no out even though it looked like he could have scored. Different decision, but bad idea again. Suppan almost caught Lowry's sac bunt, but collected the ball and threw him out at first. While Ellison moved up, Matheny had to hold at third. Sanchez hit a sharp grounder to short. Eckstein threw home. Matheny was caught between home and third and was called out without being tagged as he ran out of the baseline to avoid the out, but Ellison didn't take third on the rundown. Again, the Giants screwed up a golden scoring opportunity.

Cards sixth – RISP not cashed in
After having retired the entire lineup one time through, Lowry allowed a single to Albert with one out. This time a stolen base attempt was successful as Matheny's throw was offline. Albert is nine-for-nine in thefts this season. But, Sanders fanned and Walker did too to end the inning. In between them, Rolen drew a walk.

Giants sixth – More solid defense
Albert made an excellent play, stretching out to catch a wind-blown pop-up for the first out. Then, Alou hit a line drive to the warning track in right that Walker expertly ran down.

Cards seventh – Soup muscles up
Suppan singled off the left field wall with two out. He hit it so hard, he couldn't take second base. Eckstein just missed what could have been an RBI double just foul into the rightfield corner.

Giants seventh – King fails, but Tavarez stops the bleeding
Feliz singled leading off. With one out, Ellison's shot to right center eluded Edmonds on the bounce, but Walker was backing him up perfectly. Runners ended up at second and third. When J.T. Snow was announced as a pinch-hitter, Duncan pulled Suppan in favor of Ray King. Deivi Cruz, a much weaker hitter, took Snow's place. He did collect the RBI on a ground out to second. Julian Tavarez was throwing in the pen. Sanchez' single collected another RBI. Vizquel singled to put runners at the corners. Tavarez got the call to face Niekro and fanned him swinging. Cards 4-3.

Cards eighth – Insurance declined
Reliever Scott Munter took over. With two out, Sanders singled as Sanchez could have caught it in right, but ended up smothering it. Reggie easily stole second. Rolen singled him to third, but Walker was retired to end the threat.

Giants eighth – Tavarez cleans up own mess
Alou walked leading off. Flores and Thompson are ready in the pen. Alou moved up on a ground out, but was stranded there.

Cards ninth – Last chance for insurance falls short
So Taguchi pinch hit for Larry Walker (!?!) and was retired on a dribbler back to the pitcher. I wonder why So is good enough to hit here when he wasn't good enough to hit for Marquis Thursday night? With one out, Grudz ripped a ball to Feliz at third, but Feliz didn't field it cleanly nor did he make a good throw to first. Yet, it was scored a hit. On a hit and run, Diaz interfered with Matheny. Diaz was out, and Grudz was returned to first. Abraham Nunez pinch hit and made the third out.

Giants ninth – Izzy time shaky
Izzy fanned Ellison, but with one out, Michael Tucker singled. That brought Duncan out. Izzy whiffed Sanchez, but Vizquel singled to put runners on the corners. (As an aside, would someone tell ESPN's Joe Morgan that "Isringhausen" has the letter "r" in it?) Izzy fanned Niekro looking on a wicked curveball to end the game.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Monday: Off day
Tuesday: All-Star Game
Wednesday: Off day
Thursday: Off day
Friday vs. Houston: Mark Mulder vs. Andy Pettitte 7:10pm FSN Midwest
Saturday vs. Houston: Jason Marquis vs. Roy Oswalt 3:15pm KPLR
Sunday vs. Houston: Chris Carpenter vs. Roger Clemens 1:15pm KPLR

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

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