Walton's Game Observations – Friday – Cubs 5-3

The Cardinals fell to the Chicago Cubs by a 5-3 mark Friday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the Chicago Cubs by a 5-3 score at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon. The Cardinals' best record in baseball is now 94-55 as they have split the first two of the four-game weekend series.

Matt Morris took his fourth loss in a row and ninth of the season. Lefty Glendon Rusch again took the victory. Morris allowed seven hits, two walks and four runs in six innings.

The offense had seven singles and Jim Edmonds' solo home run in the first inning. Albert Pujols was the only hitter who reached twice, with a single and a walk.

A's locking up Haren cheaply
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland A's are discussing a contract extension with former Cardinal pitcher Dan Haren that would carry him through his arbitration years. The paper says the four-year extension could be worth more than $13 million and may be announced next week. Haren is 13-10 with a 3.90 ERA this year.

The other side of the fence
While David Eckstein took a ridiculous error during the ninth inning monsoon in Chicago Thursday night, it is worth noting that Eckstein's 13 miscues this season pales in comparison to Boston's Edgar Renteria, who leads the majors with 27 errors.

Magic number mess
It will be nice to put the magic number hoopla behind us very soon. For those who wondered, here is the deal. The Cards victory over the Cubs Thursday night coupled with Atlanta's win over Philadelphia gave the Redbirds a share of the NL Central Division title. How so, you ask? Well, at-best Houston could match the Cardinals at 94 wins, with both teams assured of playoff berths with that many victories. As co-champions, the Cardinals would win the tiebreaker for the playoffs because they have already clinched the season series against the Astros. That is why Tony La Russa refused to celebrate. At that point, the Cards didn't have sole possession of the division flag. Got it? Later today or tomorrow, it won't matter, anyway.

Friday's lineup
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Taguchi (rf), Molina, Luna (3b) and Morris. Mark Grudzielanek played for two games in a row for the first time since his back injury. Larry Walker returned to the bench after playing only one of the last four games. Jim Edmonds returned after getting a night off.

On to the game…

Cards first – Long fly for lead
Edmonds homered to left center. It was his third in his last five starts and 28th of the season. Cards 1-0.

Cubs first – What lead?
On a 1-1 count and two down, Derrek Lee hit a Morris offering just about across Waveland Avenue. For Morris, that is 12 homers allowed in his last 12 starts. Note to Cards: Pitch around Lee. He has gone deep twice in ten innings this series. Tie 1-1,

Cards second – One run each half inning
Grudz singled leading off. Molina followed with a walk. Luna fanned swinging. Morris picked up his mates with an RBI single up the middle. Eckstein dropped down a great bunt single to third to load the bases. Nomar ate the ball rather than make the throw. With a chance to rip the game open, Edmonds popped out. Cards 2-1.

Cubs second – Scoreless
Nomar led off with a single past first. Eckstein made a nice play to stop a shot by Corey Patterson and force Nomar at second. Morris fanned Henry Blanco to end the inning.

Cubs third – Held them again
Morris hit Rusch with a pitch in the leg as he led off the inning. A nice 3-6-3 started and ended by Albert, of course, ended the inning. Jerry Hairston was ejected by the umpires after continuing an argument over a check swing called a strike.

Cards fourth – Lead extended
So started it right with a single past the second baseman. A Molina hit-and-run single put runners at the corners. Luna's single scored the run. Morris' sacrifice moved the runners up. Cards 3-1.

Cubs fourth – Right back at them
Jeromy Burnitz drew a one-out free pass. So made a nice sliding catch to corral a pop-up by Nomar. Todd Walker reached via a two-out bunt single toward Luna at third. Corey Patterson's double eluded a diving Sanders in left as Burnitz scored. Sanders looked to roll on his wrist, but didn't show any obvious pain. Cards 3-2.

Cards fifth – Sanders out
Pujols walked, but he was erased in a 6-3 double play started by Sanders. He left the game after hitting. That dive in the outfield may have been a factor in his exit. Nunez came in on defense as Luna and Taguchi shifted positions, too.

Cubs fifth – Mo coughs up lead again
Rusch singled leading off. Allowing the opposite pitcher a hit to start the inning is often a very bad thing. Matt Murton, who replaced the ejected Hairston, also singled. Neifi Perez bunted them over. With first open, the Cards wisely walked Lee to load the bases and setting up Burnitz for a double play. The strategy backfired as Burnitz singled, scoring two runs. Pujols cut off the throw home and nailed Lee at third, but the damage was done. Cubs 4-3.

Cards sixth – No help from the umps
So got a bad call on a play at first base, being called out, though it appeared he beat the throw.

Cards seventh – Good threat turned back
John Gall pinch hit for Morris, but was retired. Todd Walker erred on Eckstein's easy grounder to second base with one out. Edmonds ground into a forceout at second that was almost a double play. After a pitching change to Michael Wuertz, Pujols singled to put runners on the corners. He stole second base without a throw as the Cubs were napping. But, Nunez fanned to end it.

Cubs seventh – Lead extended
Brad Thompson walked Matt Murton with one out. Perez took his place after a force out at second. Lee walked to put two on. Exit Thompson and enter Ray King. He allowed a single to Burnitz which scored another run. But, Yadi ended any further damage by picking the lead-footed Burnitz off first. Cubs 5-3.

Cubs eighth – Another threat
Randy Flores took over and allowed a one-out double to Todd Walker. With two outs, Julian Tavarez came in to get the final out, which he did.

Cards ninth – Over and out
Closer Ryan Dempster retired J-Rod, Walker and Eckstein to end it.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Saturday @ Cubs: Mark Mulder vs. Greg Maddux 12:15pm Big Fox
Sunday @ Cubs: Chris Carpenter vs. Carlos Zambrano 1:20pm WB11
Monday: Open day
Tuesday @ Reds: Jeff Suppan vs. Randy Keisler 6:10pm FSNM
Wednesday @ Reds: Jason Marquis vs. Ramon Ortiz 6:10pm FSNM
Thursday @ Reds: Matt Morris vs. Brandon Claussen 6:10pm FSNM

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

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