Walton's Friday Game Observations – Cards 4-3 (13)

In their first post-All-Star break action, the Cardinals came back to defeat the Houston Astros 4-3 in 13 innings Friday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros 4-3 in 13 innings Friday night in the first of a three-game weekend series. The Cardinals began a ten-game homestand on the right foot, upping their record to 57-32.

Lefties Mark Mulder and Andy Pettitte faced off. Each pitched very well, allowing one run and three walks. While Mulder allowed eight hits in eight innings, Pettitte gave up just four safeties. However, each pen failed them, as Einar Diaz' home run gave the Cards the lead in the eighth, but Jason Isringhausen blew the save opportunity in the ninth. Mulder's run had scored on a wild pitch. Brad Thompson earned his first major league win.

The offense was out of sync all night, especially early-on, when the team had changes to put up a nice lead but failed due to mistakes. Yet, the Astros never led until the final inning. The Cards had just eight hits in the 13 innings, led by Mark Grudzielanek, who had a home run among three hits and Einar Diaz who had two hits and also went deep. David Eckstein walked three times. But, the difference between victory and defeat was Albert Pujols, who homered with two out in the 13th for the win.

Ozzie in the booth
Dan announced that Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith will be in the FSNM broadcast booth on Monday night.

Drink less Kool-Aid
"He's got the same kind of arm as Rolen out there", gushed Hungo about Grudzielanek after a nice play. Yes, it was a nice play, but anyone with two eyes knows that Rolen's arm compared to Grudz' is night and day different.

Friday's lineup
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Sanders, Rolen, Grudzielanek, Taguchi (rf), Diaz and Mulder. Larry Walker sat against the lefty Pettitte despite a 2-for-5 career mark against him while Edmonds played though he was 2-for-27. Yadier Molina was available on an emergency basis only.

On to the game…

Astros first – Sanders injured
On a shot to left center by Craig Biggio, Sanders and Edmonds collided. While Sanders was able to hold onto the ball, both players crashed to the ground on the track. Sanders had to leave the game with a chest injury though Edmonds stayed in. Taguchi moved to left and Walker took over in right. Why, oh why, can't Edmonds and Sanders better communicate in the outfield?

Cards first – Sleepy players make sloppy plays
Eckstein drew a lead-off walk. Edmonds slapped a ball into the right field corner. As the ball bounced over Jason Lane's head and Lane missed the cutoff man, Eckstein could have scored easily, but he was held up at third in a rare Oquendo mistake. Second and third with no out. Albert slapped a first-pitch nubber to third. Eckstein came home on the contact play and was a dead duck. Walker made the second out as Edmonds apparently forgot there were only two outs as he was caught in a rundown between third and home. Ugly. Hungo is already making excuses as to how tired the All-Stars are. Please…

Astros second – In and out of trouble
Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane each singled leading off. Adam Everett fanned and a double play enabled Mulder to escape the jam.

Cards second – Out on top
Rolen looked pained while missing a pitch up and in. Dan questioned why Rolen wasn't forced to sit out the start of the second half to better heal from his sore shoulder. Good point. Grudzielanek homered to left – his fifth of the season. Cards 1-0.

Cards third - 1-2-3
Mulder drew a leadoff walk, but a double play ended that. Edmonds flied out to the track in right.

Astros fourth – RISP wasted
Ensberg stroked a two-out double but was stranded.

Cards fourth – How badly is Rolen hurt?
After an Albert ground out, Walker singled up the middle. I had switched to radio, where both Mike and Wayne commented that it was obvious that Rolen's shoulder is hurting him. Just great.

Astros fifth – Really small ball hurts big
Chris Burke reached via a swinging bunt with one out and Brad Ausmus blooped a single behind first base. Pettitte failed on a sac attempt as Mulder did a nice job keeping the ball away from him. Another swinging bunt, this time by Willy Taveras, loaded the bases. The first run scored as Mulder's wild pitch in the dirt allowed Burke to run home. Tie 1-1.

Astros seventh – Infield defense comes through
Ausmus singled again leading off. Pettitte failed on his sac, as Rolen nailed Ausmus at second on the fielders' choice. A 6-4-3 ended it.

Cards seventh – More questionable play
Walked walked leading off. Because Rolen is not right physically, Dan and Al were calling for Rolen to bunt. Instead, he blooped the ball to center for an out. Grudz singled. Pettitte picked Grudz off first on a 3-2 count to So, but Berkman dropped the ball. One pitch later, So fanned and Larry was thrown out trying to take third. What is that about making the third out at third base?

Astros eighth – Another bullet dodged
Berkman and Ensberg each took one-out walks. A strikeout of Lane and a pop out off the bat of Everett saved Mulder again.

Cards eighth – I love it when the Chads come in
Chad Qualls took over for Pettitte and promptly served up Einar Diaz' first home run of the season and first as a Cardinal. The embarrassing curtain call ensued. Eckstein and Albert drew walks. Mike Gallo retired Walker on a pop-up to short to end the inning. Cards 2-1.

Astros ninth – Izzy blows save
Jason Isringhausen came in and allowed a double by pinch-hitter and former Cardinal Orlando Palmeiro. He was sacrificed to third and scored on Mike Lamb's sacrifice fly. Taveras singled and stole second on a very close play even though the Cards called a pitch out. Biggio walked, but Izzy finally fanned Berkman to end it. Tie 2-2.

Cards ninth – Nice try
Rolen led off in a bunt attempt, but failed against Dan Wheeler. Grudz singled. After two outs, Diaz singled to put runners on the corners. Abraham Nunez pinch-hit for Izzy. Diaz took second uncontested, eliminating the force play. But, Nunez fanned on a fastball up and in.

Astros tenth – Wild Tavarez
With two out, Julian Tavarez hit Adam Everett with a pitch. It was an accident, wasn't it?

Astros eleventh – Best friend again
Tavarez walked Ausmus leading off, but a 5-4-3 made breathing easier.

Astros thirteenth – King fails again
In his second inning of work, Al Reyes walked Palmeiro with one out. With the runner at second with two down, Ray King got the call. He allowed an RBI single by Lamb and a single to Taveras to put runners at the corners. In came Brad Thompson to get the third out. Astros 3-2.

Cards thirteenth – Another Chad, another win
Eckstein walked leading off. He is the first Cardinal baserunner since the ninth. Edmonds fanned. A pitching change was a bad idea, as Albert hit a full-count offering from the other Chad, Harville, just into the bullpen in left for the win. Cards 4-3.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Saturday vs. Houston: Jason Marquis vs. Roy Oswalt 3:15pm KPLR
Sunday vs. Houston: Chris Carpenter vs. Roger Clemens 1:15pm KPLR
Monday vs. Brewers: Matt Morris vs. Victor Santos 7:10pm FSNM
Tuesday vs. Brewers: Jeff Suppan vs. Doug Davis 7:10pm FSNM
Wednesday vs. Brewers: Mark Mulder vs. Ben Sheets 7:10pm FSNM
Thursday vs. Brewers: Jason Marquis vs. Chris Capuano 2:10pm FSNM

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

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