Walton's Game Observations – Thursday – Cards 11-3

The Cardinals spanked the San Diego Padres 11-3 Thursday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals manhandled the San Diego Padres 11-3 Thursday afternoon at Petco Park. The Cardinals' record is now 64-37 and they won the series two games to one.

Again going for win #15 on the season, Chris Carpenter took on rookie Tim Stauffer. Carp did not have his best stuff, but still allowed just five hits over seven innings. All three runs allowed occurred in the second. The Padres were shut down after that.

The offense had a field day, banging out 17 hits. Seven of the eight starting position players had two or more hits, led by Albert Pujols' walk and three hits, including a triple. Abraham Nunez also had three safeties and a free pass. John Rodriguez doubled, homered and threw a runner out at the plate. Jim Edmonds smacked a home run and drove in five, tying his career high.

Borbon and Yan – together again
Members of the fateful 2003 Cardinals bullpen, Estaban Yan and Pedro Borbon, are now employees of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Yan has been pitching out of the bullpen for the big club all season, while Borbon was recently promoted from Double-A to Triple-A after having been signed over the All-Star break. All I can say is good luck, LAAoA!

Eckstein slowing down
The shortstop is hitting just .200 for July after going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. His season average is .269 and his on-base percentage has dipped to a season-low .350. Wednesday was only Eckstein's second two strikeout game of the season. Jake Peavy had something to do with that, too. Much has been said about Eckstein's bat control and it is warranted. He has only 27 strikeouts for the season.

Trouble in the Astros rotation
Starter Brandon Backe went onto the 15-day disabled list with a strained ribcage muscle and Roger Clemens almost had to miss his last start due to back pain. This could put a crimp in the Astros' recent surge.

Rome isn't burning
…but is that smoke on the horizon? The Cardinals have lost 3-1/2 games in the standings over the past week. Most of the key injured players who could help turn that trend around are not close to returning. The GM says no trades should be expected. Panic is surely not appropriate, but concern certainly could be in order.

Thursday's lineup
Eckstein, Nunez, Pujols, Edmonds, Rodriguez (lf), Grudzielanek, Taguchi (rf), Mahoney and Carpenter.

On to the game…

Cards first – Out on top
Nunez walked, then Albert singled through the hole. Edmonds followed with his 18th home run of the season. Rodriguez doubled to the wall and tried to stretch it into a triple. He was blocked from the base and was called out. Even worse, he appeared to reinjure his ankle and limped off the field. However, he did remain in the game. Former Cardinal Mark Sweeney made a nice catch to end the inning, as he fell into the camera well near first base. Cards 3-0.

Cards second – Smiling to another run
So led off with a single. Mahoney bunted him over. Dan wondered why Mahoney wasn't swinging away. I agree. As an aside, the camera showed La Russa in the dugout. In the background was Dave Duncan with a huge smile on his face. I don't think I have ever seen that before. The bunting strategy worked as Eckstein singled the run home and alertly took second on the poor throw to the plate. Cards 4-0.

Pads second – Lead mostly lost
Struggling with his control, Carpenter walked Klesko and Randa followed with a double, putting two in scoring position. Nevin fanned, but Mark Sweeney doubled into the left field corner to bring both runs home. Khalil Greene did pretty much the same thing, scoring Sweeney. Dan is wondering aloud if Carpenter is worn out, giving all the time he missed previously and his heavy 2005 workload. Al noted the team as a whole struggles during day games. Home plate umpire Kevin Kelley was getting grief from the Cardinals bench for his ball and strike calls. Cards 4-3.

Cards third – J-Rod again
Leading off, Albert walked, but Edmonds lined into a double play. Albert clearly strayed too far off the bag. Even Al noted Albert's mistake. J-Rod jacked this third home run since coming up deep into the right field seats. No problem with his ankle on that home run trot. Lotta action in left, as Grudz doubled into that busy left field corner. The San Diego bullpen is stirring, but Stauffer got out of it with more damage. Cards 5-3.

Cards fourth – A pair more
Mahoney singled but Carpenter could not sacrifice him to second base. Eckstein blooped a single to short left. Nunez legged out an infield single to load the bases. With the bases loaded, Pujols got his shortest RBI hit ever, as his swinging bunt in front of the plate enabled Mahoney to slide home and just elude the tag. Edmonds drew a full-count walk to force one home. Adios to Stauffer, hola to Clay Hendrey. J-Rod whiffed and Grudz' forced out ended it. Cards 7-3.

Cards fifth – Well dries up
Carp was walked with two outs. Boos were audible. He was stranded. First inning the Cards have not scored.

Cards sixth – Back to it
Nunez singled to short left field leading off. Pujols shot a ball off the wall in deep center. As the ball got away, Nunez scored and Albert ended up at third. Edmonds collected his fifth RBI on a single to right. Cards 9-3.

Cards seventh – Killing them softly
Mahoney led off with another single. He moved up on a Carpenter sac; then a passed ball put him on third where Eckstein's sac fly did the trick. Cards 10-3.

Pads seventh – Stopped cold
Carpenter ended up retiring 12 in a row before Greene singled with two out. After that shaky second inning, Carp really performed.

Pads eighth – J-Rod armed
Loretta and Giles singled off Randy Flores with one out. After Klesko fanned, Randa singled to left, but J-Rod nailed Loretta at the plate as he was trying to score.

Cards ninth – One more time
So doubled with one out. Then, Mahoney and Eckstein walked to load the bases. Nunez singled the final run home. As a side note, the Padres were unhappy with Kelley's tight strike zone to the point that Nevin was ejected after an argument. Cards 11-3.

Pads ninth - Finished
Fick and Sweeney singled leading off against Brad Thompson, but the game ended with Fick being doubled up on a Nady grounder.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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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