Walton's Game Observations – Thursday – Fish 4-3

Jeff Suppan and the St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Florida Marlins 4-3 Thursday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Florida Marlins by a 4-3 score at Busch Stadium Thursday night. The Cardinals' record is now 68-40 as they split the four-game midweek series two games apiece.

Jeff Suppan took on A.J. Burnett. Why were the Marlins trying to trade him, again? Burnett carried a four-hitter into the eighth, while Suppan stayed into the seventh, but was far from dominant. A four-run deficit proved to be too much for the Cards to overcome in the late innings.

Albert Pujols and John Rodriguez each had a single and a double, scored and drove in one. Jim Edmonds walked twice and singled and John Mabry had an RBI double.

Please read this
I have to admit that I was never a great Ryne Sandberg fan in his playing days and I don't think it was because he was a Cubbie. I can't quite put my finger on what it was. And, as a broadcaster, he is cardboard, white-bread awful. But, my respect for Sandberg took an exponential jump as the result of his Hall of Fame acceptance speech last weekend. It is less about Sandberg than it is about what it means to play the game right. Hall of Fame link

Carp's marathons also speak about TLR
As Chris Carpenter won his major league-leading 16th game Tuesday night, he also reached another milestone. Carp registered his fifth complete game this season. While notable on its own, it is even more impressive in that it ties the most complete games by any Cardinal pitcher during the La Russa era. Others are Todd Stottlemyre (1996), Darryl Kile (2000) and Matt Morris (2003). With all the heat La Russa gets from this writer and others about leaving pitchers in the game too long to try to help them get wins, five complete games in an entire season isn't really all that much, nor is it even if Carp ends up with seven or eight in 2005. For example, in a different era, Bob Gibson once tossed 28 complete games, 13 of which were shutouts, back in his magical 1968 season.

Thoughts with Matheny
Giants catcher Mike Matheny was placed on the bereavement list and missed two games so he could be with his ill grandfather, according to the AP. He should be back in action Thursday.

Formal radio announcement made
There was a 3:30pm gala press conference today at Busch to announce the new KTRS radio deal. The baseball writers were few and far between while the non-sports media took front and center. No real news except these two points:
• Included is an agreement with 106.1 WSMI-FM, Litchfield, Illinois to simulcast KTRS evening broadcasts to enhance coverage in the metro east and mid-Illinois region. WSMI will "provide fans in the Metro East – and as far north as Springfield – with crystal-clear reception of the KTRS broadcast." Hooray!
• KTRS will be moving its studios to the new Ballpark Village just outside the leftfield bleachers of the new Busch.

Molina update
The reason catcher Yadier Molina's return has been so slow compared to initial reports is because there apparently was a second fracture in his hand. That is why the original projection of a few days will more likely be five to six weeks before all is said and done. Molina is scheduled to be checked out Friday.

Rethinking Diaz
After some more thought, I am less sure that Einar Diaz will be dropped when Molina is ready. Let's split the difference and assume Molina will be back in two weeks – mid August. Rather than eat Diaz' salary and potentially lose a bench player who could be needed later, perhaps the Cards will instead send Mahoney down to Memphis with a promise that he will be back in two weeks, on September 1, when rosters expand. That would be much more sensible than an outright release of Diaz.

Pujols' runs are wild
With all the focus on Albert's power numbers and his batting average approaching that of Derrek Lee, his runs scored had eluded my attention. Even though he was shut out Wednesday night, Pujols has still scored ten runs in his last seven games. For the season, he has scored 90 runs in 107 games. Pujols' career best was 137 runs two years ago and his current pace would enable him to reach 136 in 2005. By the way, Pujols' total of 90 leads Derrek Lee by eight for tops in the NL.

Raffy, Mac and Rains
I sat next to author and radio host Rob Rains in the pressbox Thursday night. We had a lively debate about Hall of Fame criteria as it relates specifically to first ballot selection. Rains, who has a HoF vote himself, is unsure about Palmeiro, but prior to the scandal, felt he was a sure thing. Rains is less confident about McGwire, questioning the longetivity of his contributions. He thinks that Mac may not be selected in 2007, his first year eligible, especially since Cal Ripken and Tony Gwinn will be part of that class. We shall see…

Sorry to see Marlins go
Coming into Thursday, their final Busch clash, and despite winning two World Series since their 1993 inception, the Marlins have just a 24-32 record at Busch. Former Cardinal Bob Tewksbury won the first ever contest there by a 7-2 score on May 14, 1993.

Countdown clock
I forgot to mention that Marlins skipper Jack McKeon was given the honor of pulling off #26 Wednesday night with Tony Perez, former Cincinnati Reds great and current Special Assistant to Marlins President getting the turn for #25 Thursday. Mark McGwire was nowhere to be found. Look for Whitey and Jack Clark to be among this weekend's participants.

Thursday's lineup
Eckstein, Rodriguez (lf), Pujols, Edmonds, Mabry (3b), Taguchi (rf), Nunez (2b), Diaz and Suppan. Mark Grudzielanek was given the night off. In the clubhouse, I noted that his left knee had a bandage on it, but it was likely normal bumps and cuts.

On to the game…

Marlins first – Another rough start
Mabry and Pujols teamed up for a fine play to retire Juan Pierre on a nubber to start the game. Jeff Conine reached via a two-out single to left. He scored on a line drive homer to the grass berm in dead center off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. Paul Lo Duca followed with a single that bounced off Taguchi in right, allowing Lo Duca to take second. Same score as Wednesday night in the top of the first. Let's hope the Cards can come back again. Marlins 2-0.

Cards first – A start
Pujols doubled into the right field corner. Edmonds walked, but Mabry ground out.

Cards third – J-Rod good and bad
John Rodriguez singled to left center with two out. Pujols had to dance out of the way of a Burnett offering inside. Not a good idea, A.J. It didn't matter as J-Rod was picked off first base on a snap throw by the catcher Lo Duca to end the inning.

Marlins fourth – Soup slips
Cabrera shot a rocket into left for a lead-off single. Lo Duca also singled to left. Cabrera took third on an Encarnacion fly to deep right. #8 hitter Alex Gonzalez singled on an 0-2 pitch to score the run. Marlins 3-0.

Cards fourth – Need to string some hits together
Edmonds singled sharply to center, but was stranded.

Marlins fifth – Drip, drip, drip, drip
Conine singled with two out and moved up on a Cabrera single off Mabry at third. Lo Duca's single between short and third scored Conine as Cabrera took third on the throw home. Florida already has had ten baserunners. Marlins 4-0.

Cards fifth – Baserunner lost
Leading off, Nunez took the ball the other way, singling down the left field line. He was forced out at a contested play at second as Castillo juggled the throw and had to some fancy footwork to find the bag.

Marlins seventh – These guys are killing the Cards
Cabrera's fourth straight hit of the game, a double over Edmonds in center, ended Suppan's night at 6-2/3 innings. Al Reyes retired Lo Duca to escape.

Cards eighth – Making a last run?
Pinch-hitter Hector Luna singled with one out. He stole second and took third on a throwing error. But, John Gall fanned to blunt the threat. On an 0-2 pitch, J-Rod doubled into the right field corner, scoring Luna. Albert ripped a first-pitch RBI single to right that was catchable. However, Encarnacion played it on the bounce. Edmonds was pitched to carefully and walked. With the game on the line, Mabry stepped in. He doubled down the right field line. Pujols scored as Oquendo stopped Edmonds at third. Probably a good thing as the cutoff man had the ball behind first base already. Closer Todd Jones retired So on a grounder to end the inning. Marlins 4-3.

Marlins ninth – Holding them close
Randy Flores got the first two outs and yielded to Izzy. One pitch later, the inning was over.

Cards ninth – Closed out
Of course, Jones stayed on to retire the side, including striking out Luna looking to end it.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Friday vs. Braves: Mark Mulder vs. John Smoltz 7:10pm FSNM
Saturday vs. Braves: Jason Marquis vs. Tim Hudson 12:15pm Big Fox
Sunday vs. Braves: Chris Carpenter vs. Jorge Sosa 1:15pm KPLR

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

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