Game Observations – Friday – Cubs 5-1

The Cardinals lost Wrigley Field's first game of the 2006 season to the Cubs by a 5-1 score Friday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the Chicago Cubs by a 5-1 score at the 2006 opener at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon. Greg Maddux tamed the Cardinals' bats, with Jim Edmonds' solo home run the only offensive highlight. Jeff Suppan allowed five runs in five innings, four of which were earned.

Pitchers competition with the bat
I spoke with Jeff Suppan before leaving Philly on Thursday. He was well-aware of the fact that the other three members of the rotation all collected hits during their first starts. Not that predicting a Jason Marquis hit is a daring prediction, but Mark Mulder called Marquis' hit before Thursday's game, saying Marquis would collect a big hit that day. It was an RBI double.

New player reps
With the departure of former rep Ray King, Jason Marquis and Braden Looper have apparently taken over the mantle of Players Union leadership among the Cardinals. Let's hope they push their leadership for expedient action on a new Basic Agreement for MLB. The current one expires in December.

Spivey update
In six plate appearances for Memphis in the Triple-A opener, Junior Spivey had two hits including a double along with two walks.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan took on Greg Maddux.

The line-up
Eckstein, Encarnacion, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Taguchi, Bennett, Miles and Suppan. Skip Schumaker moved to the bench and Yadier Molina was given a day off.

On to the game…

Cards first – Cold and windy
Eckstein and Encarnacion seemed impatient. The latter was erased on a nice play from the hole by shortstop Ronny Cedeno and first baseman Derrek Lee. Albert Pujols flied out wearing a red cover over his ears. With the game time temperature of 40 degrees and a 25 mile-per-hour wind, it is understandable.

Cubs first – Lee takes Chicago
Is it me or did Neifi Perez look like he ate very, very well over the off-season? Maybe it was that two-year, $5 million deal he signed. Miles made a nice backhand stop and off-balance throw to retire Perez. But, with two down, Derrek Lee hit a shot into the left field bleachers. Cubs 1-0.

Cards second – Maddux is pretty good
After an Edmonds fly to left, Scott Rolen shot a double between the third base bag and the line. Gary Bennett took a patented Maddux on-the-hairy-edge outside strike three to end the inning.

Cubs second – Make it two
Cedeno tripled into the right field corner, scoring left fielder Matt Murton, who had walked. Cubs 2-0.

Cubs third – Four in three
Perez blooped a single into deep second or short center with one out. Lee followed with a walk. Eckstein dived to his right to stop a liner off the bat of Aramis Ramirez. However, his throw from his knees was wild past Miles. That scored Perez. With two in scoring position, Jacque Jones was walked intentionally to load the bases. Michael Barrett singled a run home on a ball up the middle on a 1-2 count. Duncan came out for a chat. He looks silly using a white towel as a scarf. Murton hit into a 6-4-3 to stop the bleeding. Cubs 4-0.

Cards fourth – Juan nailed
Cedeno made a throwing error that the home scorer called a single for Encarnacion. Ugh! It got worse as Pujols hit a ball that the wind knocked down in left. Murton fired the ball in and his throw beat Encarnacion back to first base for the second and third outs. Hungo said "there is no excuse" for Juan to have gone past second base.

Cubs fourth – Five in four
Encarnacion didn't make a sharp play in the field as Cedeno's fly to right in the wind ended up being a double. Maddux sacrificed him over. Al noted Encarnacion was playing too deep in the field. Juan Pierre tried to squeeze the run home, but the ball rolled foul. He ended up singling to right to score the run. Perez singled to left. Lee hit into a 5-4-3 to finish the frame. Cubs 5-0.

Cards fifth – Maddux rolling
After Rolen was walked, he was erased in a 4-6-3.

Cubs fifth – Another twin killing
Ramirez led off with a single sharply struck to left but was retired in another 4-6-3. Most importantly, an inning passed without a Cubs score.

Cards sixth – Soup done, Loop ready
Braden Looper warmed up as John Rodriguez pinch hit. J-Rod flied out to deep left. Eckstein fisted a single up the middle for the Cards' third hit of the day. Eckstein swiped second base, but Encarnacion flied out to short center. He is overdue for a timely hit.

Cubs sixth – Cubs quiet
Looper retired the Cubs without a baserunner for the first time all day on three grounders.

Cards seventh – Ice broken
Edmonds slammed a home run to right center field. Rolen drew a walk as Maddux seemed frustrated with his pitches. He was pulled with one down. Bobby Howry took over. Jones made a nice diving catch to take a hit away from Bennett on the right field line. Sort of like the play Encarnacion didn't make earlier. Cubs 5-1.

Cubs seventh – Looper's double zeroes
With Looper working a second inning, Perez reached again on a bad-hop double that spun over Pujols' head with one out. That led to Adam Wainwright warming up, but Looper retired Lee and Ramirez to complete two scoreless innings.

Cards eighth – KKK
Miles fanned. Scott Spiezio pinch hit for Looper and struck out, too, as did Eckstein.

Cubs eighth – Saved by himself
Wainwright came in to pitch. Encarnacion dropped a line dive hit right at him, but threw out Jones trying to take the extra base. No other action.

Cards ninth – Final chances
Against closer Ryan Dempster, Encarnacion ground out to short to end a 1-for-4 game where the hit was a scoring gift. He is hitting .222. Edmonds fanned to end the game.

Cubs ninth – Didn't happen
Sadly, it wasn't needed.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Saturday @ Cubs: Chris Carpenter vs. Carlos Zambrano 1:20pm FSNM
Sunday @ Cubs: Sidney Ponson vs. Sean Marshall 7:05pm ESPN
Monday vs. Brewers: Mark Mulder vs. Tomo Ohka 3:10pm FSNM
Tuesday: Off day
Wednesday vs. Brewers: Jason Marquis vs. Dave Bush 7:10pm FSNM
Thursday vs. Brewers: Jeff Suppan vs. Doug Davis 12:10pm FSNM

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

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