Walton's Game Observations – Sunday – Cards 5-3

Chris Carpenter and David Eckstein led the Cardinals to a series win by defeating the Atlanta Braves 5-3 Sunday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals (grand) slammed the Atlanta Braves by a 5-3 score at sold-out Busch Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals' record is now 70-41 as they took the three-game weekend series two games to one.

Chris Carpenter opposed Jorge Sosa. After a shaky start, Carp was dominant, fanning ten and allowing just four hits, two walks and two runs in eight innings. Ray King got the vulture win.

David Eckstein culminated a dramatic comeback as he hit a grand slam walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth. In fact, Eck was on base four times with a hit and two walks earlier on. Albert Pujols had a solo shot for the other run.

Geb moving back up
Joe Garagiola, Jr, vacated the Arizona Diamondbacks' general manager position, moving to the MLB front office. His interim replacement is Bob Gebhard, who had been one of Walt Jocketty's assistants prior to joining the D'backs last winter. Gebhard is a former general manager of the Colorado Rockies.

Clark on the clock
Former slugger Jack Clark received the honor of pulling down #22 from the Countdown Clock on Sunday.

Error on the other Carp
When ex-Cub Kyle Farnsworth came in to pitch in the eighth, Bob Carpenter noted that the Braves tend to bring in guys who were mediocre on other teams and they become good once they are Braves. Did Bob check out Farnsworth's numbers with the Tigers? I am pretty sure not. Farnsworth had actually earned the closer's job before being traded to the Braves and had an excellent 2003 season in Chicago, FWIW.

Sunday's lineup
Eckstein, Rodriguez (lf), Pujols, Edmonds, Grudzielanek, Nunez (3b), Taguchi (rf), Mahoney and Carpenter.

On to the game…

Braves first – Johnson jerks one
Kelly Johnson blasted a one out, full-count pitch out to dead center. Carpenter walked Andruw Jones with two out and quickly collected the third out. Braves 1-0.

Cards first – Two on, no outs, but no runs
Eckstein worked hard in drawing a walk to start the game right and he moved up on a J-Rod single. After Albert popped out, Edmonds' grounder moved the runners up. But, Grudz flied out.

Braves second – Another tater
Jeff Francoeur homered to left on Carp's first offering of the inning. #8 hitter Wilson Betemit singled with one out. That was enough for Carpenter. Braves 2-0.

Cards second – Close again
So dropped a broken-bat double just inside the left field line with one down. He moved up on a Mahoney out. Carpenter almost singled up the middle, but a nice stop and sure throw got him. It cost the Cards a run.

Cards third – Fourth RISP in three innings wasted
Eckstein managed another leadoff walk and stole second. On a pitch that didn't bound far away from the catcher, Eckstein alertly took third. It was called a passed ball. J-Rod fanned and Albert hit a weak fly to right for the second out. Edmonds flied to left.

Braves fourth – McCann canned
Brian McCann singled with two out, but tested So's arm and was handily thrown out at second base.

Cards fifth – Another RISP wasted
Eckstein doubled over third base with two outs. He's been on base all three times. But, J-Rod whiffed.

Braves sixth – Bravos baserunning boo-boo
Carp issued a leadoff walk to Johnson. Giles moved the runner up. As Jones hit a ball to short, Johnson broke too far off base and was tagged out by Eckstein.

Cards sixth – Clutch hitting non-existent
Edmonds went the other way, doubling a ball off the left field wall with one down. It is about time to get a hit with a runner in scoring position. Again, he was stranded there.

Braves seventh – Carp in a groove
Carpenter fanned two of three and has eight strikeouts on the day.

Braves eighth – Still Cruisin'
Carpenter fanned two more and has retired 19 of his last 21.

Cards eighth – Albert on it
Ex-Cub Kyle Farnsworth came in to pitch. With two out, Pujols parked one of his fastballs on the grass berm in dead center. It was #31 on the season for Albert. See you later, Kyle! Lefty John Foster came in to face Edmonds. Jimmy spun out of the way on a high pitch, losing his bat. The Braves argued it was strike three, but Edmonds was allowed to remain in the box. He eventually drew ball four. Closer Chris Reitsma came in to pitch and retired Grudz for out three. Braves 2-1.

Braves ninth – Izzy and King time not a good time
Jason Isringhausen was asked to pitch the final inning. As usual, the leadoff man reached as Giles singled to right. He easily stole second as the throw was not clean. Izzy put Jones on first. Whether it was intentional or not, it was a good idea. He took third on a 4-6-3 double play. It was the Cards' 137th double play of the season, best in the game. Francoeur showed the clutch hitting that the Cards have been lacking when he stroked an RBI double into the right field gap. Izzy was pulled for Ray King with a lefty, McCann batting. King hit him with a pitch. So much for that strategy. To make matters worse, King was yelling at McCann on first as the two apparently exchanged words. King was asked to put Betemit on base. It worked, as one pitch retired the pinch-hitter. However, Horton must have lost track of the batting order as he incorrectly announced the pinch-hitter following intentional walk meant Reitsma was out of the game. Braves 3-1.

Cards ninth – Little man comes up big
Reitsma was back out there to face Nunez. He singled up the middle. So followed, doing almost exactly the same thing. Hector Luna pinch-hit. His job was to bunt the runners over. Instead, he hit the ball off the pitcher's glove. Giles dropped the ball in an attempt to tag So. All runners were safe as Scott Seabol pinch hit. He popped out. Eckstein slammed a grand slam into left on a 1-0 count. The Redbirds took their only lead of the day as Luna crossed the plate. An instant later, the game was over as Eck was mobbed by jubilant teammates. Cards 5-3.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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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