Walton's Game Observations – Saturday – Braves 8-1

The NL Central-leading Cardinals lost to the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves 8-1 Saturday afternoon

The St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the Atlanta Braves by an 8-1 score in front of 48,565 at sold-out Busch Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals' record is now 69-41 as they split the first two of the three-game weekend series.

Jason Marquis took on Tim Hudson. Or, should I say, the Cardinals starter was Dr. Jason and Mr. Marquis? On one hand, Marquis took a no-hitter into the fifth. On the other, he didn't get an out in the sixth before leaving. In between, he surrendered two home runs to Andruw Jones, including a grand slam, and made a poor pitch to Wilson Betemit with two outs and the pitcher up next. The latter allowed a run who had moved up due to a Marquis wild pitch. Marquis now has a losing record at 9-10 and has given up 11 runs in 11 career innings against his former team. Out of the pen, Brad Thompson pitched two good innings, but Ray King struggled in the ninth.

Hudson collected his 100th career win as Albert Pujols had two hits and a walk, while Mark Grudzielanek had three hits, including a double and the only Redbird RBI. Grudz has a nine-game hit streak. He and Pujols are hitting .381 and .370, respectively, since the All-Star break.

Enjoying every minute
At 10:03am, over two hours before game time, there was only one uniformed person from either team on the field. It was #53, John Gall, stretching on the grass behind first base. Soon, Scott Seabol and Mike Mahoney joined him. These guys seem to be taking this big league thing seriously.

Brad and the Master
The next two players to emerge were a real pair of opposites – 37-year-old grizzled veteran Cal Eldred and 23-year-old fresh-faced rookie Brad Thompson. They two walked together all the way down the first base line to the outfield for their stretching.

First liar doesn't stand a chance
The LA Times has an outstanding political cartoonist named Michael Ramirez. In today's cartoon, Rafael Palmeiro and Pete Rose are sitting at a bar (in uniform) and the conversation goes like this...
Palmeiro: "Hopefully, this won't hurt my Hall of Fame chances."
Rose: "Wanna' bet?"

Turnstiles spinning
With Saturday's gate, the Cardinals became the first NL team to surpass 2.5 million in attendance this season. This was the team's 27th home sellout of 2005.

Not good in the spotlight
The Cards are 0-3 in Big Fox televised games from Busch and are 2-4 overall. Four more remain, including one more at home on August 20.

Saturday's lineup
Eckstein, Rodriguez (lf), Pujols, Edmonds, Grudzielanek, Mabry (rf), Nunez (3b), Mahoney and Marquis.

On to the game…

Cards first – Out on top again
With one down, Rodriguez singled between short and third. Albert walked before being forced out at second on a fielders' choice grounder by Edmonds. J-Rod took third. Grudz shot a 1-0 offering into right center for an RBI single. Runners on the corners again. Mabry's bouncer to first ended it. I have a uneasy feeling about the Cards not getting more off Hudson early. Cards 1-0.

Braves second – Mabes flashes leather
Mabry made an excellent diving catch for the third out, coming in on a ball to short right field by Jeff Francoeur.

Cards fourth – Can't match Cards' D
With one out, Grudz dropped a ball to right that Francoeur tried to grab ala Mabry, but just missed. After his double, Grudz took third on a ground out by couldn't score.

Braves fifth – What no hitter? What lead?
Leading off, Andruw Jones put a Marquis offering 393 feet into the back of the Braves bullpen in left. With one out, Francoeur singled and took second on a wild pitch. Wilson Betemit's double into the rightfield corner easily scored the lead run. I wonder why Marquis gave him anything to hit with Hudson up next. Braves 2-1.

Cards fifth – Small ball too small
Eckstein reached via a two-out bunt single, but J-Rod couldn't advance him.

Braves sixth – Marquis slammed again by Jones
The speedy Rafael Furcal drew a leadoff walk and took third on a hit-and-run single to center by Kelly Johnson. Marcus Giles drew a walk as Brad Thompson began to throw. He didn't warm up fast enough as Jones put a 1-0 pitch up over 370 feet into the seats in left for a grand slam. It was his fourth grand slam of his career, sixth multi-homer game this season and 27th of his career. Jones has to be considered along with Pujols and Derrick Lee for NL MVP. He's that good, folks. Brad Thompson finished the inning as Marquis was pulled. Braves 6-1.

Cards sixth – Promising start, but no finish
Albert slapped a clean, sharp single to left. Edmonds fouled a ball into the press box the row below me. No one was hurt. Unfortunately, Edmonds fanned swinging for the first out. Grudz laced a single to left. Mabry fanned on an 0-2 pitch that may have been inside and Nunez was retired to quell the threat.

Braves seventh – Damage already done
Thompson took the mound for his second inning of work. Hudson singled to left with one out. That was all Thompson surrendered.

Braves eighth – More runners
Al Reyes took over and Hector Luna, who had pinch-hit, stayed in the game. La Roche singled with two outs but was stranded.

Cards eighth – Albert's miscue hurts rally
Hudson was given the rest of the night off as former Cub Kyle Farnsworth took over. His first pitch nailed J-Rod in the left foot. He looked to be in pain, but after Trainer Barry Weinberg checked him out, he stayed in. Pujols stroked a hit-and-run single to left to put runners at the corners. Albert took off for second as Edmonds hit a popup to deep second. Albert didn't recognize that the ball was going to be caught and was all the way to second base when it was. Needless to say he was easily doubled up and never broke stride as he went over first base and right back into the dugout. It was the first time Edmonds was doubled up all season, not that it was all his doing. To top it off, it began to rain.

Braves ninth – King and weather both sloppy
Ray King took over. Betemit singled to left with one out and Franco singled past Nunez. Furcal slapped an RBI double to left center. Pete Orr, running for Franco was caught off third on a Johnson grounder. Grudz played the rundown perfectly. Giles' RBI single off Cal Eldred plated Furcal. Jones walked to load the bases before Eldred finally ended it. Braves 8-1.

Cards ninth – Last chance
The rain stopped as Mabry singled past first off closer Chris Reitsma. A fielders' choice put Gall on first with two out. But, the game was soon over as Diaz fanned.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Sunday vs. Braves: Chris Carpenter vs. Jorge Sosa 1:15pm KPLR
Monday @ Brewers: Matt Morris vs. Victor Santos 7:05pm FSNM/ESPN
Tuesday @ Brewers: Jeff Suppan vs. Doug Davis 7:05pm FSNM
Wednesday @ Brewers: Mark Mulder vs. Ben Sheets 1:05pm FSNM
Thursday @ Cubs: Jason Marquis vs. Greg Maddux 1:20pm FSNM
Friday @ Cubs: Chris Carpenter vs. Carlos Zambrano 1:20pm FSNM/WGN
Saturday @ Cubs: Matt Morris vs. Jerome Williams 12:15pm Big Fox
Sunday @ Cubs: Jeff Suppan vs. TBD 7:05pm ESPN
Monday: Off day

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

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