Walton's Game Observations –Wednesday – Padres 2-1

Jason Marquis and the Cardinals lost to the San Diego Padres 2-1 Wednesday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals were shaded by the San Diego Padres 2-1 Wednesday night at Petco Park. The Cardinals' record is now 63-37 and their National League Central Division lead is no longer double digits, as the surging Houston Astros are now 9-1/2 games back.

Jason Marquis and Jake Peavy engaged in a great pitching duel, as the game went into the ninth tied at one apiece. But, Marquis, given a chance to stay in and win his tenth game of the season, instead took his eighth loss as he allowed a pair of hits in the bottom of the ninth.

Peavy fanned ten Redbirds hitters on the night and allowed just two hits and two walks in eight innings. Abraham Nunez' RBI triple was the big blow for the Cardinals.

Morgan talks sense
Yes, I am often critical of ESPN's Joe Morgan, but his pregame comments about Albert Pujols rang true for this once. Said Joe, "I've been around a long time and seen a lot of players. He is the best young player that I've ever seen in this game."

No one close
With their win Tuesday, the Cardinals improved their road record to 30-16 (.652). They are the only National League club with a winning road mark this season. Impressive.

Walt overconfident?
Walt Jocketty was interviewed on-air during the fifth inning. Walt was pessimistic about any trade activity. "We'll probably stand pat… As far as trying to replace the injured players, I am not that concerned." That makes one of you, Walt.

Another winning month
Coming into Wednesday, the Cardinals have a 14-7 record in July. With five games to go, they have assured themselves of their tenth consecutive winning month, including four this year plus the last six in 2004. Their last streak this long was way back in 1942-44 when the Cardinals posted 16 consecutive winning months.

Pitching remains hot
Even before Marquis' fine outing Wednesday, the Cardinals' 14-7 record was second best in the league. Houston was 18-6. The Cards lost those seven games by a combined 16 runs. Their July pitching ERA of 2.78 is second in the entire major leagues to Houston (2.37) and the hurlers have allowed only 65 runs (60 earned). Redbird pitchers have given up just 56 walks this month, the fewest in baseball.

Wednesday's lineup – J-Rod back
Eckstein, Rodriguez (lf), Pujols, Edmonds, Mabry (rf), Grudzielanek, Nunez, Mahoney and Marquis. John Rodriguez returned after spraining his ankle Saturday.

On to the game…

Cards first – Albert trying too hard?
Albert singled through the hole with two outs. He then took a good idea and went too far. Taking off for second, he drew a wild throw by catcher Robert Fick that sailed into centerfield. Rounding third, Albert didn't slow down and ill-advisedly tried to come home, where he was easily thrown out by centerfielder Dave Roberts. Jose Oquendo had the stop sign up at third, but Albert never pays any attention to him, anyway. It is one of the consistent and rare weaknesses in Albert's game.

Pads first – More good glovework
J-Rod picked a Dave Roberts line drive right off the turf for a nice catch. Mark Loretta dumped one in front of Mabry in right for a single, but was erased in a nice double-play rundown between first and second.

Cards second – First blood drawn
With one out, Mabry walked. Nunez drilled the first two-out pitch he saw on a rope over Brian Giles' head in right. Mabry steamed home as Nunez slid into third for an RBI triple. Cards 1-0.

Padres third – Three straight hits
Peavy and Roberts singled with one out. Loretta's RBI single scored Peavy. Giles drew a walk to load the bases. Still one out, but another double play bailed Peavy out. Tie 1-1.

Cards fourth – Albert drilled
Pujols drilled Peavy with a pitch leading off. The fact that he is 5-for-8 against Peavy may have been a factor as well as his wild baserunning in the first. Pujols stole second with two out, but was stranded.

Pads sixth – A rare appeal that worked
Giles walked leading off. Ryan Klesko hammered a ball to deepest center. It would have been a home run most other places. Giles alertly tagged up and took second as the Cards threw the ball around. However, the Cards turned a silk purse into a sow's ear when they appealed and won, claiming correctly that Giles left first before Edmonds made the catch. Replays were inconclusive at best.

Cards eighth – A baserunner! At third!
Nunez walked leading off. The Cards haven't had a hit since Nunez tripled in the second. Peavy has fanned nine so far. Mahoney's sacrifice was perfect. I would have like to see Nunez try to steal to save an out. Didn't happen as a Marquis ground out put him at third. Eckstein was at the plate, so everyone assumed a squeeze was in order. However, Eckstein was called out on strike three, a ball that Eckstein vehemently argued was instead a foul ball. The umpires did not reverse the call.

Pads eighth – Peavy parked
Fortunately, Peavy was pinch-hit for. Getting him out of the game presents the best chance for the Cards to win this game, for sure.

Cards ninth – Two on, none in
Rodriguez singled off Padres closer Trevor Hoffman leading off. Hector Luna pinch ran and tagged up and took second on a Pujols foul ball down the right field line. Edmonds was walked intentionally to keep the double play in order. Mabry fanned and Grudz lined out.

Pads ninth – Tough loss
Another admirable and detestable aspect of La Russa reared its head as Marquis was allowed to stay in, despite having thrown 110 pitches. Klesko doubled into the left field gap. Edmonds' throw was a bit off, and Grudz was unable to make the tag. With one out, Damian Jackson pinch-ran. Joe Randa was intentionally walked to set up the double play. The 132nd pitch by Marquis, a 2-1 count to Fick, was driven to right center to end the game. Pads 2-1.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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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