Walton's Game Observations – Sun. – Cubs 8-4 (10)

The Cardinals were defeated by the Chicago Cubs 8-4 in ten innings Sunday night.

The Chicago Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 8-4 in ten innings at Busch Stadium Sunday night. In the process, the Cubs took two games of the hard-fought, three-game weekend series. The Cardinals' record is now 62-36.

Making his third attempt at win number 10, Jeff Suppan opposed Cubs ace Mark Prior. With a win, Suppan would have joined Carpenter, Morris and Mulder in double digits. However, Julian Tavarez allowed a two-run homer in the eighth to make that a moot point.

Three home runs off Prior in the first were the early offensive highlights of the evening for the Cards as Nunez, Edmonds and Mabry went deep. However, all were solo shots and it was the last time Cards hitters threatened until the ninth, when David Eckstein singled home the tying run.

The excitement quickly turned to disappointment as Al Reyes got into trouble in the tenth. He and the Cards took the loss on a stunning grand slam by weak-hitting shortstop Neifi Perez.

Dellucci dinged up
One rumored trade target, Texas' David Dellucci, was held out of Saturday's game due to a myriad of injuries, including soreness in his hamstring, calf and back. He'd fit right in with St. Louis in that department. Hank Blalock replaced him at designated hitter for the Rangers, who don't play Dellucci much in the outfield due to his weak throwing arm. Why are so many people excited the prospect of about trading for a DH? To top it off, fellow Rangers outfielder Laynce Nix injured his shoulder and is out for the rest of the season, making it less likely they would make a trade anyway. Pass.

Scoop: The bench needs help
For those who are still unconvinced that the Cardinals don't need to add another hitter to strengthen their bench (and start many days): The team is dead last in pinch-hitting in the National League at .199 in 141 at-bats and they have only six walks.

Trade rumors
It is easy to shoot at others' trade rumors, isn't it? Well, here are a couple of my own. Jayson Werth from the Dodgers and Craig Monroe from the Tigers. They fit the bill. Righthanded hitting, young, with power. I don't know how serious the discussions are, but a source has told me there is reportedly interest. As has been reported elsewhere, the Tigers prefer the Cards take Rondell White, who is an end-of-career Reggie Sanders with a bad arm. Another name that is rumored to continue to interest the Cards is Eric Byrnes, who was recently traded from Oakland to Colorado, but could move again in the right deal.

One more Bernie Bit beef
Says the P-D columnist, Bernie Miklasz, about David Eckstein: "The Cardinals shortstop has a pattern of wearing down in the second half of the season…" Let's check the facts – Eckstein's career marks.
Batting average (first half/second half): .272/.286
On-base percentage (1H/2H): .349/.349
Slugging percentage (1H/2H): .348/.359
Looks like the P-D could really use some decent researchers.

#29 for #29
Vince Coleman was afforded the Countdown Clock honor Sunday night. In case you're interested in Coleman's recent whereabouts, check out this story by Rob Rains. Coleman story

Bob Broeg, Cubs fan?
ESPN's Joe Morgan proudly shared the story that a Cubs fan had given Stan Musial his nickname, "The Man". Longtime Post-Dispatch sportswriter Bob Broeg would be quite disturbed to learn that, since he is generally attributed to hanging the famous moniker on the former Donora Greyhound. Note: A differnt version of the legend attributes the name to Dodger fans at Ebbets Field. Haven't heard the Cub version before, though...

El Hombre? Aqui?
Morgan went on to say that in St. Louis, Pujols has acquired the nickname "El Hombre" ("The Man" in Spanish). Guess I missed that…

Sunday's lineup
Eckstein, Nunez (3b), Pujols, Edmonds, Mabry (rf), Grudzielanek, Taguchi (lf), Diaz and Suppan. Albert Pujols rejoined the starting lineup after taking part of Saturday off. Walker missed a second consecutive game due to his sore neck. John Rodriguez was off after spraining his ankle Saturday.

On to the game…

Cubs first – Bent, not broken
Jerry Hairston, Jr. singled leading off and took second on a wild pitch with one out. Smartly, Suppan gave Lee nothing to hit, though he walked him. After Jeromy Burnitz flied out, Suppan fanned Aramis Ramirez looking on a full count pitch. However, it took Suppan 22 pitches to escape the inning.

Cards first – Three deep
With one out, Abraham Nunez made his best Scott Rolen impression, hitting a Prior breaking ball out to right. Edmonds homered on the first pitch he saw and so did Mabry. The latter shot cleared the home bullpen. Grudz stroked a double to the left field gap that rolled to the wall. So drew a walk in four straight. Prior received a visit from his pitching coach. Diaz ground into a fielders' choice, but Prior had to throw 29 pitches. Cards 3-0.

Cubs second – Giving one back
Henry ".176 hitting backup catcher" Blanco homered to left with two out. Cards 3-1.

Cards second – Cubs give but Cards give back
Leading off, Suppan's bad hop bouncer was barehanded, bobbled then thrown away by Ramirez from third. It was scored an error. Suppan moved up on a hit and run with Eckstein. Nunez tapped an easy grounder toward second, but he got to the bag before Prior could. It was scored an infield hit, but Prior should have made the play. Runners at the corners with one down and the big boys coming up. After Albert popped up again, our cleanup hitter, Jim Edmonds, fooled no one trying to bunt. What was that about? At least Prior's pitch count is 51. The ESPN gang say Prior is not on a pitch count, though. That is because the concept is foreign to Dusty Baker.

Cubs third – Much better, Soup
Suppan walked Lee on four pitches with two down, which was a wise move as he quickly retired Burnitz for the third out.

Cards third – Not down in order yet
So drew a two-out walk but Diaz flied out to right.

Cubs fourth – Drip, drip
Ramirez singled leading off and Hollandsworth moved him up. Grudz looked like he had time to get the lead runner, but threw to first instead. Ramirez took third base on another ground out to the right side. Henry "fricking" Blanco's liner over Eckstein scored the run. Cards 3-2.

Cards fifth – Taking the extra base
Albert drew a leadoff walk. He surprised everyone by tagging up and taking second on a fly to deep center by Edmonds. Jerry Hairston is a second baseman, not a centerfielder. Albert took third on another fly to deeper center by Mabry. But, Grudz was retired on a comebacker to Prior.

Cubs sixth – Harpo hits
Harpo Marx, er Todd Hollandsworth, doubled down the left field line with two outs as the ball bounced off the stands and initially eluded Mabry. He was stranded. Brad Thompson began to warm up as Suppan had thrown 86 pitches to that point.

Cards sixth – Can't be the hero every night
J-Rod pinch hit for Suppan with two outs. He just missed a home run on the wrong side of the right field foul pole, then fanned.

Cubs seventh – Middle infield gloves
Against Thompson, Henry "pain in the rear" Blanco reached leading off on a ball to short. A nice 4-6-3 off the bat of an unable-to-bunt Jose Macias took the wind out of the Cubs. As an aside, Thompson pitching for 1-1/3 innings in a game of this importance underlines La Russa and Duncan's confidence in the rookie.

Cards seventh – Here and gone
Nunez drew a four-pitch walk with one out. He took off toward second on the next pitch, a hit and run, but was thrown out.

Cubs eighth – Two of three hurlers did their job
After a one out walk to Lee, Thompson was replaced by Ray King. After getting his man, Burnitz, Julian Tavarez received the call to get the final out. He didn't do it before Ramirez homered into the visitors' bullpen. Cubs 4-3.

Cubs ninth - No
With Jason Isringhausen pitching, Albert got caught between hops on a ball off the bat off new Cub Jody Gerut. He was charged with a two-out error as Gerut reached first base... but that was it.

Cards ninth – Last chance not
Pinch-hitter Scott Seabol was walked by closer Ryan Dempster with two down. Hector Luna pinch ran and stole second on a very close play. With one strike left, Eckstein singled to right, scoring Luna, who slid around the catcher and touched the "bag" with his hand. (Morgan called home plate "the bag" twice.) Eckstein took second on the throw home and moved up to third as Nunez reached on an infield single. On a full count, Albert hit a nubber to second for the third out. Blown save for Dempster. Tie 4-4.

Cubs tenth – Salami tastes bad
Al Reyes took the mound. Todd Walker doubled leading off. Lee was walked for the fourth time. Burnitz dropped down a perfect bunt to move the runners up. That opened first base, so Ramirez was intentionally walked. A double play is needed badly. Reyes didn't get it, but he fanned Michael Barrett swinging. But the excitement turned to horror. The next pitch left the park as Neifi Perez stunned the crowd with a grand slam right down the right field line. Cubs 8-4.

Cards tenth – It's over
Mabry singled with one out. So made the final out, but even it was contested as Ramirez' throw pulled Lee off the bag at first. A-Ram is not much of a third baseman defensively, but his team won this time.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Monday: Off day
Tuesday @ Padres: Mark Mulder vs. Woody Williams 9:05pm FSNM
Wed. @ Padres: Jason Marquis vs. Jake Peavy 9:05pm FSNM/ESPN2
Thursday @ Padres: Chris Carpenter vs. Tim Stauffer 2:35pm FSNM
Friday @ Dodgers: Matt Morris vs. Brad Penny 9:40pm, FSNM
Saturday @ Dodgers: Jeff Suppan vs. Derek Lowe 3:05pm Big Fox
Sunday @ Dodgers: Mark Mulder vs. Odalis Perez 3:10pm WB11

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

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