Walton's Game Observations – Wednesday – Cards 3-0

Jeff Suppan's seven shutout innings led the Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers by a 3-0 score Wednesday afternoon and earn a series sweep.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Brewers by a 3-0 score at Milwaukee's Miller Park Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals' record is now 73-41 as they swept the three-game midweek series. 32 games over .500 is yet another new season high-water mark.

Jeff Suppan took on Brewers ace Ben Sheets. Both pitchers did an outstanding job, going into the sixth having given up a single hit each. The Brewers threatened in the sixth and seventh, but Suppan and the Cardinals defense held. Suppan went seven full shutout innings, allowing just four hits and four walks, striking out two. The relief was again spotless, as Jason Isringhausen collected his 31st save of the season.

The difference in the game was that the Cardinals took risks and had clutch hitting when the Brewers did not. The first run scored on a very unorthodox first inning squeeze by #3 hitter So Taguchi and the other two were plated by a huge two-out hit in the eighth by David Eckstein.

Patterson back
Just in time for the Cardinals series, the Chicago Cubs recalled centerfielder Corey Patterson from Triple-A Iowa. The five-tool player had a dreadful start to 2005 and was banished to the minors on July 7, hitting .233 at the time. He was in the lineup Tuesday night, batting seventh and went 1-for-4 with a run scored. By the way, the Cubs' suffered their seventh consecutive loss Tuesday as the pen wasted a solid Mark Prior effort. He pitches next against Matt Morris Sunday night on national television.

Zambrano will start Friday
After leaving his last outing on Sunday with back pain, Cubs' starter Carlos Zambrano will start against the Cardinals at Wrigley on Friday. He will oppose Jason Marquis in the afternoon contest.

Edgar – Goat and hero
After going 0-for-5 and allowing three runs to score after committing his MLB-worst 21st and 22nd fielding errors, Boston's #2 hitter, Edgar Renteria, singled in the winning run in the tenth inning Tuesday night.

Royalty abdicated
The poor Kansas City Royals blew a five-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and ended up losing to the Cleveland Indians by six Tuesday night. The Royals dropped to an MLB-worst 38-74 (.339). It hurts to see how ownership let this once-proud franchise sink to the bottom.

Killer "E"
Houston's third baseman Morgan Ensberg hit two home runs Tuesday night, tying Albert Pujols with 31 homers on the season. The Cardinals and Astros play five times in September. If the Astros continue to surge and take the Wild Card, Ensberg will deservedly get some MVP votes, hopefully for second or third place, however.

Izzy consistency
With his 30th save of the season Tuesday night, Jason Isringhausen became just the fourth MLB pitcher his season to reach that mark. Those who criticize Izzy's durability should look again. He has earned 30 or more saves in five of his last six seasons. Sure, Izzy allows more baserunners than you'd like to see, but he only has one loss and three blown saves in 44 appearances. The bottom line is excellent.

Gibby vs. Roger?
Those who read my recent discussion with Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch about Cy Young criteria would be interested in this, courtesy of Billy-Ball. (Hummel discounted Roger Clemens' Cy Young candidacy because he is basically a seven-inning pitcher.) According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the average innings-per-start for starting pitchers has dropped from 6.5 in the '70s to 6.24 in the '80s, to 6.03 in the '90s to 5.92 since 2000. Bob Gibson was quoted at Cooperstown last weekend. "All I know," said Gibby, "if a manager ever came out to the mound in the 7th inning I'd say to him: 'What the ---- do you want?'" Poor Red!

Cripple Crown?
Chicago's Derrick Lee has fallen to fifth in the National League in RBI at 84. He still leads in batting average by one point at .348 but his home run count of 33 is two behind the leader. In the three triple crown categories, Lee averages 2.8th place. Pujols' average is third (one second - RBI, one third – batting average, and one fourth - home runs)

Wednesday's lineup – Two of eight starters and So hitting third!
Eckstein, Rodriguez (lf), Taguchi (rf), Edmonds, Luna (2b), Nunez (3b), Seabol (1b), Diaz and Suppan. The right side of the infield, Mark Grudzielanek and Albert Pujols, took the day off. Jim Edmonds and Abraham Nunez returned after a one-game breather.

On to the game…

Cards first – First blood squeezed out
Eckstein led off the game with a six-pitch at-bat before drawing chalk on a double into the left field corner. J-Rod bunted him over on the first pitch. The next pitch was a perfect suicide squeeze bunt by So as the run scored easily. The squeeze this early in the game is a rarity. It shows me two things – respect for Sheets and an acknowledgement that this lineup is going to need every run it can muster. Cards 1-0.

Brewers first – RISP
With one out, Suppan walked Rickie Weeks. The zone looks to be called tightly today. On the next pitch, there were runners at the corners after Lyle Overbay singled. Weeks took third on a nice catch of a foul popup on the rail by Seabol. Nunez saved a run as he collected a shot off Suppan and threw out the runner, Geoff Jenkins, by a split second at first.

Brewers second – Second pass
Damian Miller walked with one out but didn't advance.

Brewers third – Collision course
Brady Clark fought for an 11-pitch walk with one out. On a double play grounder, Clark took Luna out on the turn as both players stayed down. It looked like Luna's ankle might have been rolled as he had trouble getting the ball out of his glove for an instant. Ultimately, Luna was able to remain in the game, but Clark was taken out.

Brewers sixth – Two on
Weeks legged out a single to deep short with one out. It was just the third hit of the day in total for both teams. Overbay hit a ball to Luna at second which he could not handle for an infield single. A fly ball and ground out enabled Suppan and the Cards to escape.

Cards seventh – RISP again
So singled to left, representing the first Cardinal baserunner since the first inning. Sheets has walked no one and retired 19 in a row. So stole second as Edmonds fanned, but Luna hit a Mahoney dribbler to short.

Brewers seventh – Dodged another
Leading off, Bill Hall doubled to the left center gap as J-Rod's throw was a bit offline. A strong and accurate throw may have beaten Hall to the bag. He took third on a ground out to the right side. Suppan pitched very carefully, walking the #8 hitter, Hardy, to get to Sheets. Surprisingly, manager Ned Yost let Sheets hit. He ground out, but was able to avoid the double play. Most importantly, Hall did not come home. Then, Chris Magruder, who came in earlier for the injured Hardy, flied out to Edmonds to end the threat.

Cards eighth – Small ball, big lead
Seabol reached on an infield single and Skip Schumaker pinch-ran. A hit-and-run by Diaz worked perfectly. La Russa was shown in a very animated sequence cheering on the play. Schumaker took third as the throw was wild. However, the Brewers got a lucky bounce, as it came back to the catcher before the runners could advance. Still, both runners were in scoring position for John Mabry, hitting for Suppan. Albert remained on the bench. Unfortunately, Mabry whiffed on three straight pitches. Then, Eckstein came through with a two-out, two-run RBI single and moved up on the throw home. Cards 3-0.

Brewers eighth – Pen delivers
Al Reyes took over to protect the lead. Julian Tavarez was given a breather after pitching the first two nights of the series. Overbay singled with one out. Ray King took the ball with two outs. It was good to see him fan the lefty Geoff Jenkins. I sure hope King gets back on track.

Cards ninth – Sheets not shorted
Despite having given up two runs the inning before, Sheets stayed in the game and retired the Cards in order.

Brewers ninth – Izzy time = sweep time
As expected, Jason Isringhausen was called on to finish the game.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Thursday @ Cubs: Mark Mulder vs. Greg Maddux 1:20pm FSNM
Friday @ Cubs: Jason Marquis vs. Carlos Zambrano 1:20pm FSNM/WGN
Saturday @ Cubs: Chris Carpenter vs. Jerome Williams 12:15pm Big Fox
Sunday @ Cubs: Matt Morris vs. Mark Prior 7:05pm ESPN
Monday: Off day

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

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