Walton's Game Observations – Wed. – Cards 4-3

In game two of the 2006 season, the Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Phillies by a 4-3 score Wednesday evening.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Phillies by a 4-3 score at Citizens Bank Park Wednesday night in front of just over 20,000 fans. Yadier Molina's single drove home the winning run in the top of the ninth after Skip Schumaker hit his first career home run. Albert Pujols also went deep. Mark Mulder allowed three runs in seven innings. Brad Thompson was the winner in relief and Jason Isringhausen got a shaky first save.

Other guys get ringed
On Tuesday night, I watched the Astros game. Prior to the contest, I had to sit through the ceremony as the 2005 National League Champions were awarded their rings by owner Drayton McLane, President Tal Smith and General Manager Tim Purpura. Both Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemens (in street clothes) received the loudest ovations. Clemens watched the game from right behind home plate. Andy Pettitte got his ring first so he could warm up before his start. Maybe he needed more time as he allowed two home runs in the first inning to the upstart Marlins and eight runs overall. Between that and all the Florida kids getting their first career hits, they were going through baseballs at a record pace.

Rowand looks back
Phillies' centerfielder Aaron Rowand used his day off to return to Chicago to receive his World Series Champions ring with his 2005 White Sox teammates. Asked how frequently he would wear the ring, Rowand said, "All the time." Wonder if that is good or bad?

Long way up
Courtesy of friend Billy Ball, here is a stat to help explain why the Philadelphia faithful are so cranky. "It will come as very little surprise to the City of Brotherly Love that Philadelphia Phillies fans will have a long wait to hit the .500 mark. At 8,679-9,879 the Phils could win every game for the next seven years and still be looking up at .500." (For reference, the Cardinals are 9683-9034, .517, in their history. That is #4, behind the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers all-time.)

It never rains in California…
I had been complaining about the poor scheduling that would start northern teams like the Phillies at home. So much for that gripe. You see, the Padres-Giants game in San Diego was rained out Tuesday. In the Padres' 38-year history, it was just their 16th cancellation and the first-ever at Petco Park, which opened in 2004. In fact, you have to go back 635 home games since the Pads' last cancellation, which was on May 12, 1998.

Cards Opening Day firsts
Here is how good Monday's 13-5 victory was:
- Albert Pujols is the first Cards player ever to hit two home runs on Opening Day.
- Scott Rolen's grand slam was the second on Opening Day (Mark McGwire in 1998).
- Aaron Miles' four hits tied a record (Most recent in nine innings was by George Altman in 1963).
- 17 team hits was one short of the record of 18 (set in 1974).
- 13 runs was one short of the record of 14 done twice (last in 1982).

The mound match-up
Mark Mulder faced off against Brett Myers.

The line-up
Eckstein, Encarnacion, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Schumaker, Molina, Miles and Mulder. Against the lefty, Skip Schumaker received a start in the only position player difference from Opening Day.

On to the game…

Cards first – Threat
Juan Encarnacion walked with one out, but Pujols took a called strike three for his first one of the regular season. There won't be too many more in the next 160 games. He fanned only 65 times in the 2005 season. Edmonds drew a walk. Rolen lined out to Rowand in right center. A Phillies writer said, "That would have been a double last season."

Phils first – Rollins rolling
Jimmy Rollins got his game 38 hit out of the way by shooting a lead-off double past Rolen and into the left field corner. Rowand moved him up via bunt and Bobby Abreu's sac fly plated the run. One press box wag said, "At least the Phillies will not trail every inning this season." Pat Burrell singled sharply up the middle before Chase Utley chased strike three. Phils 1-0.

Cards second – Tie game
Schumaker singled past a diving Bell (ha!) at third and easily stole second base on a failed hit and run. Yadier Molina more than redeemed himself by singling up the middle to put runners on the corners. Abreu short-hopped what looked to be a very catchable ball in right. As a result, Miles' gift single scored the run. The press box boys disparaged Abreu's Gold Glove. With Mulder up and no outs, a mound conference ensued. He popped out to the pitcher. Ugh. Good thing he can pitch. Eckstein lined out and Utley stabbed Encarnacion's shot to end the threat. Tie 1-1.

Phils second – Rolen's glove ok
Scott Rolen made a couple of nice plays coming in for the second and third outs.

Cards third – Boos to cheers
Edmonds walked with one out, but Rolen ground into an inning-ending double play. The cheer was second loudest of the night after Rollins' double.

Phils third – Rollins must be tired
Ho hum. Rollins doubled again. Third at-bat in a row.

Cards fourth – Skip shot
Skip Schumaker, making his bid for more playing time, hit his first career home run into the right field seats on a 1-1 count. Surprisingly, Mulder drew a two-out walk. Cards 2-1.

Phils fourth – Doubling them up
Utley singled to right with one out, but was erased in Ryan Howard's double play to end it.

Cards fifth – Albert again
Leading off, Pujols slammed an 0-2 pitch up into the seats past the left field foul pole. It was another line drive shot. Cards 3-1.

Phils fifth – Defense doing the job
Mike Lieberthal singled with one out. That took Myers out of the game for a pinch-hitter. Alex Gonzalez ground into a tailor-made 5-4-3 to quash the mini-threat. Geoff Geary will become the new pitcher.

Cards sixth – Mulder loose on the bases again
Mulder sliced a two-out single to left. What is the world coming to? Eckstein then looped a single into left, before Encarnacion fanned on a pitch up and in for out #3.

Phils sixth – Strong up the middle
Eckstein made a nice throw from deep short and Miles went far to his left and made an accurate throw to first base for the final out.

Cards seventh – Rolen reminder
The fans' boos turned to cheers again when reliever Ryan Franklin's first pitch to Scott Rolen was up and in. He ground out 5-3 to end the inning.

Phils seventh – Fit to be…
Following a Howard single, oft-injured third baseman and former Cardinal David Bell deposited Mulder's 1-1 offering into the left-field seats to re-tie the game. Tie 3-3.

Cards eighth – No decision for Mulder
A two-out rally. After Miles walked, so did pinch-hitter John Rodriguez. Mulder tossed 84 pitches in his first regular season outing of seven innings. Eckstein singled to deep short to load the bases. Rollins saved a run by making a diving stop to his right. Encarnacion hit a dribbler to second base to put the zero on the board.

Phils eighth – Thompson takes over
In a very telling move, Brad Thompson took over on the mound for his second appearance of the season while big-bucks signee Braden Looper sat in the pen. Brad did not disappoint, retiring the Phils in order, including the pesky Rollins, who flied out to center and Rowand, who hit a liner directly at Thompson.

Cards ninth – Yadi in the clutch
Phillies closer Tom Gordon walked lead-off man Albert Pujols. Considering his 20-for-38 career mark against Gordon, it was easy to understand why. Edmonds fanned swinging. On a 1-2 count, Pujols stole second, as the throw went into center. As Roward bobbled the ball in center, Pujols thought about coming home, but wisely stopped at third with one out. However, he tried to come home on a Rolen grounder to short and was out by a country mile. Schumaker walked to move Rolen into scoring position and he scored on a Molina single to left. Cards 4-3.

Phils ninth – Izzy time a nail-biter
Closer Jason Isringhausen earned his keep by facing the heart of the order starting with the #3 man, Abreu. With one out, Burrell singled to center and yielded to pinch-runner Shane Victorino. Pujols recorded the second out by beating Utley in a race to the first-base bag. With first base open, Izzy pitched carefully to Howard and walked him. Bell then walked on a nine-pitch at-bat to load the bases. Izzy earned his first save of the season by retiring Mike Lieberthal on a grounder to first base.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Thursday @ Phils: Jason Marquis vs. Cory Lidle 2:05pm FSNM
Friday @ Cubs: Jeff Suppan vs. Greg Maddux 1:20pm FSNM
Saturday @ Cubs: Chris Carpenter vs. Carlos Zambrano 1:20pm FSNM
Sunday @ Cubs: Sidney Ponson vs. Sean Marshall 7:05pm ESPN

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

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