Walton's Game Observations – Tuesday – Astros 3-1

The Cardinals fell to the Houston Astros by a 3-1 mark Tuesday evening.

The St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the Houston Astros by a 3-1 score at Busch Stadium Tuesday evening. The Cardinals' record is now 97-61 as they lost the first game of the abbreviated two-game midweek series. The Cards are 4-8 in their last 12 games and 11-13 for the month.

Matt Morris opposed Roy Oswalt. Each pitched well, but Oswalt made fewer mistakes and came out on top. Morris allowed five hits and two runs in six innings as his record dropped to 14-10. Jason Marquis made his first relief appearance of the season and gave up a solo home run in two innings of work.

Larry Walker had a double and two singles. David Eckstein also had a pair of hits. The rest of the offense managed only three hits more against Oswalt and closer Brad Lidge, who worked two hitless innings for the save.

New attendance record
With over 40,000 Tuesday night, the Cards' 2005 home attendance reached 3,351,194. That is a new team single season record.

Tuesday's lineup – A preview?
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Walker, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Nunez, Molina, Morris. Will this be the Game 4 NLDS line-up, too? If one is required, that is… Certainly, no one can say that La Russa isn't putting his best team out there to try to win what is a crucial game for Houston.

On to the game…

Astros first – First hit
Morgan Ensberg singled to left with two out. That was all.

Cards first – Try to get him early
As usual, David Eckstein reached, this time via a single to left center. Walker singled to roughly the same spot with two down. However, Sanders fanned to end it.

Astros second – Good K
Adam Everett blooped a two-out single to right that Walker couldn't get to. Brad Ausmus fanned swinging for the third out.

Cards second – Another two-out hit
Yadier Molina singled to right center with two down.

Astros third – Nice twin killing
Speedy Willy Taveras singled between first and second with one out. A tidy 6-4-3 ended that foolishness.

Cards third – Good threat
Edmonds reached via a one-out single past second base. Thousands of flashes went off as Pujols hit a high fly to left. Walker lined a hard shot past first, putting runners on the corners. A Sanders ground out ended the threat. Since returning from injury, Sanders is now 2-for-26 (.077).

Astros fourth – First free pass
Mike Lamb drew a two-out walk, but was stranded.

Astros fifth – Jam dodged
Ausmus was hit by a pitch on the hand with one out. After his trainer checked him out, he remained in the game. Oswalt was unable to bunt him over, at least until the umps called Ausmus safe at second. Morris made a throw to second that was a bit high, and Eckstein had to leap to avoid the sliding Ausmus, but that play is called an out 99.9% of the time. La Russa argued in vain with second base umpire Bill Hohn, of course, and he had every reason to complain. With runners at first and second, Taveres took a called strike three for the second out. Biggio flied out to right to end the jam.

Cards fifth – Not so good
Eckstein legged out a one-out infield single to second base. Very nice hustle. A strike-em out, throw-em out double play with Edmonds flailing at strike three and Eckstein nailed by a mile at second ended the inning in an ugly manner. Albert Pujols then did the honor of removing his #5 from the Busch Countdown Clock, as his wife and two small children joined him.

Astros sixth – Fast Lane
As all four infielders converged on the mound to get Ensberg's high pop-up, Nunez took it, rolling over on his back off the rear edge of the hill. Lamb singled sharply to right with two out. Morris has yet to have a 1-2-3 inning. Jason Lane followed with a home run into the left center field seats. Astros 2-0.

Cards sixth – Break on through, sorta
Pujols shot a ball past third that was called foul. First Oquendo, then La Russa complained. One replay seemed to back up third base umpire Bruce Dreckman's call, while another might have been in the favor of the Cards. Walker slapped a one-hopper off the wall in deep center with one down. Sanders doubled off the right field wall to score Walker. An over-anxious Grudz fanned at a high, wide pitch for out #2 and Nunez failed, too. Between innings, I ended up discussing the call with Dan McLaughlin and Wayne Hagin, in the men's room, of all places. Wayne was non-committal, while Dan thought the ball hit the corner of the bag. I disagreed, as I would have expected the trajectory of the ball to change and it didn't seem to. It could be the difference in the game. Astros 2-1.

Cards seventh – Mo out
John Mabry pinch-hit for Morris and flied out to right.

Astros eighth – Marquis mashed
Craig Biggio greated Jason Marquis, the newest reliever, with a 380 foot home run to left as he began his second inning of work. Astros 3-1.

Cards eighth – Lights-out Lidge?
Closer Brad Lidge will be asked to go two innings. He handled one in a hurry.

Astros ninth – Taveras over Tavarez
Julian Tavarez took over. Ausmus singled, just past Grudz' glove in short right with two outs. Bagwell singled and Taveras walked to load the bases. A Biggio forceout ended it.

Cards ninth – Hope and nope
Sanders drew a leadoff walk. Skip Schumaker pinch ran. He was promptly picked off. J-Rod fanned to make it official. Good-night, all!

Upcoming action - projected (times CDT)
Wednesday vs. Astros: Chris Carpenter vs. Brandon Backe 8:10pm FSNM
Thursday: Off day
Friday vs. Cincinnati: Mark Mulder vs. Randy Keisler 8:10pm FSNM
Saturday vs. Cincinnati: Jason Marquis (or Jeff Suppan) vs. Ramon Ortiz 3:15pm WB11
Sunday vs. Cincinnati: Matt Morris vs. Brandon Claussen 1:15pm WB11
Regular season ends.

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

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