Walton's Game Observations – Friday – Dodgers 7-5

The Cardinals defeated themselves 7-5 and the Los Angeles Dodgers benefited Friday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals struggled Friday night, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-5 in front of 53,783 at Dodger Stadium. The Cardinals' record is now 64-38 as they lost the first game of the three-game weekend series. Their road trip record is 2-2. With another Houston win, the Cards NL Central lead slipped to 8-1/2 games. It was 13 games nine days ago.

Matt Morris took on Brad Penny. Neither was sharp, but Morris managed to get past a dreadful first inning, when he allowed four including another costly home run. He fanned just three, but was solid during the middle innings. However, Morris self-destructed during the seventh, allowing the tiebreaking two runs as the result of mental errors.

The offense had plenty of chances, with every starter, including Morris, reaching base. But, they struggled with clutch hitting, stranding ten runners in the first six innings alone. Abraham Nunez had a walk and three hits including a triple, Albert Pujols had a single and a home run.

Some levity
Birdhouse friend Billy-Ball's Friday e-newsletter is worth reading both for a look back at former GM Frank "Trader" Lane and a hilarious list of malaprops by broadcaster Jerry Coleman, who will honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. link

Friday night's alright
The Cardinals had won ten Friday contests in a row and came into this week with a 14-2 record on TGIF this season. That is their best record on any day of the week by a considerable margin.

Yadi best
Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said Yadier Molina "might be the best catcher in the league'. I sure wish Yadi was in the lineup to prove it.

E on B
Scully, who works alone in the booth, made a rare error when he announced during another Molina lovefest in the fifth that the Cards had to trade Mike Matheny to make room for Molina in the lineup. He later called the Cards leadoff hitter "Eckstone". Maybe it was an off night for the master.

Friday's lineup
Eckstein, Nunez, Pujols, Edmonds, Rodriguez (lf), Grudzielanek, Taguchi (rf), Mahoney and Morris. For what seems like has been weeks, the Cards have not had the same lineup night to night. Finally, it has happened. These are the same eight position players in the same order used during Thursday night's outburst. I suspect that is not a coincidence.

On to the game…

Cards first – Applying pressure from the start
As he seems to like to do, Nunez slapped the first pitch he saw. It went to the wall in right center, where Ricky Ledee dropped the ball, enabling Nunez to take third without a throw. Penny was visibly upset, apparently at Ledee, not himself. Pujols ripped a pitch off shortstop Cesar Izturis' glove for a quick RBI single. Edmonds shot a ball to left where Milton Bradley made a sliding catch. Scully noted that Pujols was lucky in that he would have been doubled up trying to get back to first had Bradley not fallen. Aggressive or overly so? J-Rod doubled to left center to put two in scoring position. Jeff Kent muffed an easy grounder by his counterpart Grudzielanek for another run. Cards 2-0.

Dodgers first – Morris allows another damaging homer
Oscar Robles lined a single to center with one out. Bradley ended up at second on a ball that Pujols ole'ed instead of knocking down. Albert took an error. Despite Kent having a great career record against Morris, he was given a fat pitch to hit and did so, driving home Robles. Ricky Ledee then deposited a ball in the right field seats. Two runners scored ahead of him. Dodgers 4-2.

Cards second – Shaky Dodger D
On a popup by Mahoney, first baseman Jason Phillips ran into Kent, and as a result, Kent received his second error in two innings. Morris sacrificed him to second, but that was it.

Dodgers second – At least no one scored
Dioner Navarro collected his first ever NL hit. After a sac, Izturis grounded to Pujols, but Morris was late covering the bag and Izturis avoided the tag. Fortunately, both were stranded.

Cards third – Walking in LA
J-Rod drew a one-out walk, but received no help.

Dodgers third – A cheap run
Mahoney caused interference on Bradley. At least that is what umpire Larry Vanover said, leading to a pitched argument. It would be costly as Ledee just missed a home run. Then, Phillips collected an RBI single. Brad Thompson was directed to start warming up. Dodgers 5-2,

Cards fourth – No sacs
Mahoney singled leading off. Morris failed to execute the hit and run twice before walking. After missing on a 2-1 hit and run, Eckstein ground into a 6-4-3. So much for Albert hitting with two on base. No score.

Cards fifth – Two in, but should have been more
Pujols homered to right. Edmonds singled and moved up on a wild pitch. After J-Rod fanned looking, Grudz' single put runners at the corners. So dropped an RBI single into right. Mahoney reached on an infield single to short. Had it gotten through, a run would have scored. La Russa called a squeeze, but Morris was unable to get the bunt down. Grudz, coming down the line from third, was a dead duck. Morris then fanned to finish off what looked to be a breakthrough inning. It was only the second failed squeeze attempt by the Cards in eight tries this season. Dodgers 5-4.

Dodgers fifth – Steady Grudz
Bradley singled to left leading off. Grudz turned the middle of a nice double play, for his league-leading 79th of the season.

Cards sixth – Fit to be…
Eckstein singled off rookie Jonathan Broxton leading off. It is the 21-year-old Broxton's first-ever appearance in the bigs. He was just called up earlier Friday evening. Nunez kept following off pitches until singling. The rook then fanned the great Pujols, who flung his bat away in disgust. A wild pitch to Edmonds allowed the runners to move up. As a result, the Dodgers decided to walk Edmonds intentionally to load the bases. J-Rod's first-pitch sac fly to deep right scored Eckstein easily. Grudz whiffed for the third out. The Cards have stranded ten runners so far. Tie 5-5.

Dodgers seventh – Morris meltdown
Morris walked his first batter of the night, Izturis, as Scully was highlighting his success in that area. Morris was visibly angry at Vanover's strike zone. Robles slapped a hit-and-run single to right to put runners at the corners with one out. Get over it, Matt, and concentrate! Nope. Izturis came home on a little nubber by Bradley back to Morris. Morris could have nailed Izturis at the plate, but for some reason, threw to first instead of going home, despite Albert's waving him to throw home instead. Kent doubled on the next pitch over Edmonds' head as Morris has come unraveled. Dodgers 7-5.

Cards eighth – Albert can't do it this time
Nunez singled again with one out, but Pujols hit into a double play.

Dodgers eighth – Smoke but no fire
Jason Repko doubled to left off Cal Eldred. Navarro walked. Repko took third on an infield fly, but neither scored.

Cards ninth – Chance to tie
Grudz doubled off closer Yhency Brazoban with two out. John Mabry pinch-hit for Taguchi. His fly ball ended it.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Saturday @ Dodgers: Jeff Suppan vs. Derek Lowe 3:05pm Big Fox
Sunday @ Dodgers: Mark Mulder vs. Odalis Perez 3:10pm WB11
Monday vs. Marlins: Jason Marquis vs. Ismael Valdez 7:10pm FSNM/ESPN
Tuesday vs. Marlins: Chris Carpenter vs. Dontrelle Willis 7:10pm FSNM
Wednesday vs. Marlins: Matt Morris vs. Josh Beckett 7:10pm FSNM
Thursday vs. Marlins: Jeff Suppan vs. A.J. Burnett 7:10pm FSNM

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

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