Walton's Game Observations – Saturday – Cubs 6-5

Matt Morris and the Cardinals were shaded by the Chicago Cubs 6-5 Saturday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Chicago Cubs 6-5 at Busch Stadium Saturday afternoon. The two have split the first two of the three-game weekend series. The Cardinals' record is now 62-35.

Matt Morris took on Jerome Williams in front of a national audience on Fox. Well, not totally national, as the East Coast instead watched that exciting contest between the third place, nine games under .500 Dodgers versus the fourth place Mets. Their loss.

Morris allowed all six runs in six innings and took the loss, just his third of the season. The 2004 Morris reappeared as he allowed home runs to the number 3, 4 and 5 Cubs hitters, Derrek Lee, Jeromy Burnitz and Aramis Ramirez.

Offensively, John Rodriguez hit a pair of doubles and an RBI before leaving the game with an ankle injury. David Eckstein doubled and knocked in a run. Mark Grudzielanek had two hits and two RBI.

Rolen and Sanders in "close to the same place"
That place is called "not playing any time soon." During an in-game interview with Joe Buck, Tony La Russa said that both Rolen and Sanders "hopefully" can be back in "early September". "I don't think we can expect them sooner than that," said Tony.

Blown to Bits
Gotta take exception to two of Bernie Miklasz' Bits in Saturday's online Post-Dispatch article. Bit #1: "Nunez is batting .344 as a third baseman this season." Talk about a worthless micro stat. Nunez is a good utilityman, but he will never be a .344 hitter over any valid sample size. By the way, Nunez is hitting .205 as a second baseman. Does that mean he shouldn't play defense at that position? Why in the world would a hitter do better or worse at the plate depending on whether he is playing second base or third? Sheesh!

Bit busting #2
Bernie Bit #2. "David Dellucci's .400 on-base percentage and rate of one homer for every 15 at-bats would fit nicely in the lineup if the Cardinals can acquire the outfielder from Texas." Yeah, right. How about a real sample size? Prior to 2005, the 31-year-old's career OBP was .339 and his home run rate per at-bat had been one per every 36 at-bats (44-for-1595). Let's get real. Dellucci is having a career year. The Rangers gotta be thinking – "buy low, sell high"!

Saturday's lineup – Three starters and five reserves
Eckstein, Nunez (3b), Rodriguez (lf), Edmonds, Mabry (1b), Grudzielanek, Taguchi (rf), Mahoney and Morris. Albert Pujols joined the three regulars on the shelf – Molina, Rolen and Sanders. Pujols has a strained shoulder on his left, throwing side. Walker also took the day off due to his sore neck, meaning there are only three regular starters in there. One of them, Edmonds, has hamstring problems on top of it.

On to the game…

Cubs first – Avoiding Lee
After fanning the first two batters, Morris gave Derrek Lee nothing to hit. Good idea as Jeromy Burnitz hit a lazy fly to right on the first pitch he saw.

Cards first – RISP with two out
J-Rod slapped a 3-2 pitch into the left field gap. As it rolled to the wall, he ended up at second with a two-out double. Edmonds' fly ball to right ended the inning.

Cubs second – Bad guys on top
Leading off, Aramis Ramirez singled past Grudz. Todd Hollandsworth doubled down into the right field line. Both runners ended up in scoring position. Neifi Perez' ground out to the right side moved Holly up and scored Ramirez, who slid home hands first, even though there wasn't even a throw. Michael Barrett singled past Eckstein as part of the drawn-in infield to collect the second RBI. Cubs 2-0.

Cards second – Miscommunications or mistake?
Grudz legged out an infield single to short with one out. So singled to right, as Lee was holding Grudz close to first. Mahoney hit with runners on the corners. Strangely, with one out and Morris coming up, Mahoney bunted. A bad play, even though Grudz moved up on the out. Williams walked Morris to load the bases as the Cubs held a summit meeting on the mound. Eckstein couldn't get the run home.

Cubs third – Morris of 2004 returns?
With two outs, Burnitz hammered a Morris offering over the bullpen in right. Ramirez almost homered to right on the next pitch. Cubs 3-0.

Cards third – Two runs, but another injury
Nunez drew a leadoff walk. J-Rod stroked an identical ball as in the first. His double scored Nunez. J-Rod had injured his ankle previously on the dugout steps and was taken out of the game. Hector Luna replaced him. After Edmonds fanned, Mabry hit the ball right to Todd Walker at second. The ball went though his legs as Luna scored on the error. I am sure glad the Cubs chose Walker over Grudz. Mabry was forced out on a ground ball that looked like it could have been a double play. Cubs 3-2.

Cards fourth – Eck collects RBI
Mahoney led off with a double into the left field corner. Why in the heck was he bunting before? Morris moved Mahoney to third on a sac bunt. Eckstein's ground rule double to left center tied the game. Tie 3-3.

Cubs fifth – MoHRis is back
Major two-out trouble. Walker singled past Eckstein. Lee homered over the bullpen in left. Why did Morris pitch to him this time? Lee has picked up that irritating Sammy Sosa home run bunny hop, making matters even worse. Cubs 5-3.

Cards fifth – One back
Eckstein took a free pass leading off. Baker himself went to the mound. Mabry shot a ball off Lee's glove. The single put runners on the corners. Michael Wuertz began to throw in the Cubs pen. Grudz lofted a sac fly to deep right to score Edmonds. So started an inning-ending double play on a weak grounder to second. Cubs 5-4.

Cubs sixth – What Cards rally?
Ramirez homered to left leading off. The two-run cushion is back. Cubs 6-4.

Cubs seventh – Cal clean
Cal Eldred took over for Morris on the mound and retired the Cubs' three hitters in order.

Cards seventh – One back
A wild pitch strike three by Michael Wuertz enabled Nunez to sprint to first ahead of the throw. On a hit-and-run with Luna, Nunez took second as Luna was thrown out. Wuertz was lifted for Will Ohman. After Edmonds popped out, Pujols pinch-hit. That kept intact Pujols' streak of appearing in every game this season. Ohman was pulled for Roberto Novoa. After a couple of token pitches, Pujols was put on first intentionally. Grudz' full-count single to right scored Nunez and allowed Albert to take third. So's lazy fly ball to right ended the threat. Swing down, So… Cubs 6-5.

Cubs eighth – One on
Ramirez shot a ball off the heel of Nunez' glove for a two-out infield single. That was the only runner to reach in two good innings of work by Eldred.

Cubs ninth – Reyes fine
Al Reyes dispatched his three hitters in order.

Cards ninth - Close, but...
Cubs closer Ryan Dempster faced Nunez, who led off with a single to right. Luna was asked to bunt him over and did. Edmonds took a free pass. Albert lined into a 6-4 game-ending double play.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Sunday vs. Cubs: Jeff Suppan vs. Mark Prior 7:05pm ESPN
Monday: Off day
Tuesday @ Padres: Mark Mulder vs. Woody Williams 9:05pm FSNM
Wednesday @ Padres: Jason Marquis vs. Jake Peavy 9:05pm FSNM/ESPN2
Thursday @ Padres: Chris Carpenter vs. Tim Stauffer 2:35pm FSNM

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

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