Walton's Game Observations – Thu. – Cards 6-2

In Game 2 of the NLDS, the Cardinals defeated the San Diego Padres by a 6-2 mark Thursday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the San Diego Padres by 6-2 score at Busch Stadium Thursday afternoon. In the process, they take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best of five National League Division Series to San Diego this weekend.

Mark Mulder opposed Pedro Astacio. Mulder was masterful, going 6-2/3 one-run innings despite getting hit on his pitching arm by a line drive in the second inning. Randy Flores got a key out, Julian Tavarez bent, but didn't break and Jason Isringhausen tossed a perfect ninth.

Reggie Sanders put the final hurt on the Padres with a two-run double in the seventh inning, but the Cards built a lead playing small ball prior to that. The highlight was David Eckstein's suicide squeeze. He also singled in a run to join Sanders with two RBI. Albert Pujols had two hits, a walk, drove in one and scored. Jim Edmonds walked twice. Abraham Nunez doubled and scored two.

Thursday's lineup – Repeating the best
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Walker, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Nunez, Molina, Mulder.

On to the game…

Cards first – Never mind…
Eckstein led off with a single up the middle. Albert ground into an easy inning-ending double play.

Padres second – Mulder hit
Khalil Greene drew a one-out walk as the first Padres baserunner of the day. Joe Randa shot a line drive off the bicep on Mulder's pitching arm. After getting checked out, Mulder remained in the game. Xavier Nady was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Duncan called the bullpen to get Jason Marquis up and throwing. After falling behind 2-0 and with the pitcher up next, Mulder battled back to fan rookie Ben Johnson and then retired Astacio on a nubber to escape.

Padres third – Solid defense
Mark Loretta shot a ball toward the left field corner. Sanders did a nice job cutting it off to hold Loretta to a single. Nunez went far, far to his left on a grounder by Giles, with the throw just beating Giles to the bag. Pujols made a fine stretch and scoop to finish the play.

Cards third – Two runs
Nunez drew a leadoff walk. Molina shot a bouncer off Greene at short for an error. Mulder made a feeble attempt at sacrificing the runners up on the first two pitches, but delivered on the third try. The Cards took the lead on a contested play. Eckstein hit a sharp grounder to a diving Nady at first. He jumped up and threw home, as Nunez just slid home safe. Edmonds walked on four pitches to load the bases with one out. Pujols took a five-pitch walk to force in the second run. Still only one out as the Padres get a reliever warming up, Clay Hensley. Walker and Sanders each fanned swinging on pitches that looked to be balls. Two runs scored without getting the ball out of the infield, but Astacio had to throw 38 pitches to get three outs. Cards 2-0.

Padres fourth – Mulder on target
Greene opened with a single to left and was quickly erased in a 6-4-3 started by Randa. A Nady chopper ended the inning quickly, proving Mulder was not affected by the long wait in the bottom of the third.

Cards fourth – Two more via small ball
Grudz led off with a single to short right. On a hit and run, Nunez shot a catchable ball over the rookie Johnson's head in right as it bounced on the track and into the bullpen for a ground rule double. Molina hit a sharp bouncer to Nady, who filed the ball home as Grudz slid under the high throw. Mulder whiffed for the first out, but runners were still on the corners. Eckstein put down a perfect squeeze bunt on a lazy breaking ball to score Nunez as Molina took second. Edmonds grounded out. Cards 4-0.

Padres fifth – Another twin killing
Pinch-hitting for Astacio, Damian Jackson singled to left with one out. Another double play with the also speedy Eric Young was not even close!

Cards fifth – Promising start
Clay Hensley took over on the mound. Leading off, Pujols shot a ball up the middle that Greene dove for. His throw pulled Nady off the base as the play was scored a hit. Walker took over at first on a fielders' choice play, but that was it.

Padres sixth – More twin killings
Ramon Hernandez singled to left with one out. A 3-6-3 off the bat of Brian Giles ended the inning. Three double plays in each of the last three games.

Cards sixth – Doing it all
Mulder drew a two-out walk.

Padres seventh – Pads score
Greene doubled to right center leading off. A single by Randa put runners on the corners. Another single by Nady collected the run. Julian Tavarez and Ray King started to warm up in a hurry. Pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo started a 4-6-3 as Randa took third. Jackson was awarded first base as a bouncer apparent nicked his foot. Mulder was pulled from the game at that point, with two down and runners on the corners. Tavarez induced a Ryan Klesko fly ball to end the threat. Cards 4-1.

Cards seventh – Cracking it open
Edmonds drew a leadoff walk. A perfect hit and run single by Pujols to right put runners on the corners. Walker took ball four, but third base umpire Angel Hernandez called him out for a check swing. Sanders slapped a first-pitch double into the left field corner to score both runs. That's eight RBI for Sanders in two games. He took third on the throw home, as the crack Fox crew erroneously labeled it a triple. Cards 6-1.

Padres eighth – Flores puts out fire
Hernandez singled with one out. Giles also reached, but Greene lined out to Nunez, who thought about trying to pick Giles off first for another double play, but wisely held onto the ball. On a single to center by Randa, Edmonds charged the ball and threw a strike home. The Padres smartly had held the catcher Hernandez at third. Bases loaded with two out as Duncan checked on Tavarez. Nady was hit on the elbow on a checked swing to force in a run. Exit Tavarez as the tying run, Mark Sweeney came to bat. Randy Flores came in to play Ray King's role. He fanned Sweeney with the sacks jammed. Cards 6-2.

Padres ninth – Izzy time
Jason Isringhausen took the Pads out 1-2-3.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Friday: Off day
NLDS Game 3, Saturday vs. Padres: Matt Morris vs. Woody Williams 10pm ESPN
NLDS Game 4 (if necessary), Sunday vs. Padres: Match-up TBD 3pm ESPN2
NLDS Game 5 (if necessary), Monday vs. Padres: Match-up TBD 3pm Fox

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

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