Game Observations – Saturday – Cards 4-1

On Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals defeated the Chicago Cubs for the second consecutive game, this time by a 4-1 mark.

On Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals defeated the Chicago Cubs for the second consecutive game, this time by a 4-1 mark. In the process, the Cards improved their record to 11-6, while the Cubs dropped to 9-7.

On a day during which he struggled, Sidney Ponson held the Cubs close until his offense broke through in the fifth inning via the small ball. The offense made the most out of four hits. David Eckstein's RBI single tied the game and Albert Pujols' two-run single opened up the margin. Yadier Molina's double in the sixth brought home the final run. The bullpen tossed four shutout innings to keep the Cubs down and out. Jason Isringhausen collected his fifth save of the season.

New mini-feature
Most in the Cardinal Nation would be satisfied with a regular season repeat from 12 months ago. So, I have decided to add a new feature here recapping the Cardinals' results from this date in 2005.

One year ago today
On April 22, 2005, the Cardinals opened a weekend series against the Astros, holding on to win, 8-7. Jason Marquis started and Al Reyes and Randy Flores were lit up before Julian Tavarez and Jason Isringhausen righted the ship. Mark Grudzielanek and So Taguchi knocked in two runs each via doubles and Marquis singled, doubled and walked.

No, not TINO
The Cardinals purchased 31-year-old outfielder Timo Perez from the Cincinnati Reds. Perez originally came up with the Mets and spent last season with the Chicago White Sox, for whom he hit .218 in 76 games. I guess he could help Memphis, but not the big club.

From our friend Lee Sinins - Albert Pujols is already in the Cardinals top 10 for career hits above the league average:

HITS                            DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE  
1    Stan Musial               
972     3630     2658  
2    Rogers Hornsby          647     2110     1463  
3    Lou Brock                  425     2713     2288  
4    Joe Medwick              367     1590     1223  
5    Enos Slaughter           350     2064     1714  
6    Johnny Mize               272     1048      776  
7    Curt Flood                 265     1853     1588  
8    Albert Pujols              261     1001      740  
9    Ted Simmons             260     1704     1444  
10   Ken Boyer                 240     1855     1615

Phil Cuzzi and more controversy
I had an hour before the start of the Cards-Cubs game on Saturday and tuned into the Yankees-Orioles contest to pass the time. New York broadcaster and former Cardinal pitcher Jim Kaat was breaking down Friday's game-ending called strikeout of Yank Hideki Matsui on a ball that was at least a foot outside. Tony La Russa's favorite umpire Phil Cuzzi was behind the plate. Cuzzi was the man who tossed Jim Edmonds and La Russa in the 2005 NLCS and is generally considered one of the game's weaker umpires, despite his post-season assignment.

Astros feast and famine
Houston third baseman Morgan Ensberg has set an Astros team record with home runs in six consecutive games. He has eight on the season. On the other hand, outfielder Preston Wilson is lost, having fanned in 13 of his last 16 at-bats.

The match-up
Sidney Ponson vs. lefty Glendon Rusch. Is it me, or does Ponson look a lot in build like former Cardinals hurler Kent Bottenfield?

The line-up
Eckstein, Luna, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Molina, Taguchi and Ponson. Out were lefties John Rodriguez and Aaron Miles (switch) and in were righties Hector Luna and So Taguchi.

On to the game…

Cubs first – Well, Walker is a Cub
Ronny Cedeno singled over shortstop with one out. Todd Walker singled him to third, but Walker foolishly tried to take second on the throw and was nailed easily – Edmonds to Rolen to Luna for the tag. Ponson pitched around Aramis Ramirez to get to John Mabry, who popped out to short.

Cards first – A baserunner
Pujols was walked carefully to get to Scott Rolen, who fanned swinging on an up-and-in fastball.

Cubs second – Defense reports for duty
.188-hitting Jacque Jones led off with a single. A 5-4-3 around-the-horn ended the inning.

Cards second – Nothing doing
Like I said, the Cardinals hitters were doing nothing much.

Cubs third – Could have been much worse
A lead-off single to the opposing pitcher is never a good thing. Rusch singled right up the middle over Ponson's cranium. Pierre hit the next pitch past Luna for another. A Cedeno bunt moved both runners up. Walker took a free pass to load the bases for Ramirez. Several different Cardinals conferences ensued. Rolen made a nice diving stop and Pujols a great scoop to get Ramirez at first, though Dusty Baker protested. The run did score in the process. A Mabry 4-3 ended it. Cubs 1-0.

Cards third – RISP missed
Leading off, So Taguchi softly singled to right. Ponson expertly bunted him up on the very first pitch. An Eckstein ground out put the runner at third, but that was it.

Cubs fourth – Just a bump
.100-hitting Henry Blanco was given a free pass, as the #8 hitter. What is that all about? Molina came out to talk to the struggling Sid. He retired Rusch on a grounder to short.

Cards fourth – Big guys held in check
The three-four-five hitters struck the ball hard, but outs resulted.

Cubs fifth – Ponson hanging tough
The speedy Pierre singled off the bottom on Ponson's foot. A 4-6-3 didn't happen, as first base ump Larry Young called Cedeno safe at first. He stole second on the first pitch as he and Eckstein collided on the bag. The ball got away, but not far enough to let Cedeno take third. Walker took a free pass before a 5-4-3 on Ramirez ended the threat.

Cards fifth – Ponson from loser to winner
Encarnacion took a check-swing called strike three leading off. Taguchi drew a walk. Adam Wainwright began to warm in the pen, as John Rodriguez pinch-hit for Ponson. He walked, too. Eckstein shot the first pitch he saw into right to tie the game. Luna took another pass to load the bases for Pujols. Rusch was pulled for Scott Williamson. Pujols guided a single up the middle to score two and give the Cardinals the lead. He is hitting .583 with runners in scoring position. Cards 3-1.

Cubs sixth – Wainwright still looking good
Adam Wainwright took over on the mound. It is clear that he has moved up in the relief pitcher pecking order, being trusted to hold the lead in a close and important game. Out #2 was especially impressive, as it nailed Jones looking on a high, inside fastball. He also whiffed Matt Murton looking on a nasty breaking ball down and in.

Cards sixth – More pressure
Edmonds drew a lead-off walk. He was almost picked off, taking an early move toward second, but Williamson threw late as Edmonds slid back in safely. A wild pitch allowed him to move up, anyway. Encarnacion again fanned on a low, outside pitch as boos were audible. Yadier Molina stroked a ground-rule down into the third base corner to score Edmonds. Taguchi was plunked on the hip as Molina was stealing third base! Yadi had to return. That was enough for Dusty, as he brought in a new pitcher, lefty Scott Eyre. Scott Spiezio pinch hit. He and Eckstein were quickly dispatched. Cards 4-1.

Cards seventh – Not much
Rolen walked with two out, but Edmonds fanned to end it.

Cubs eighth – Looper steadying
Braden Looper completed his second consecutive perfect inning.

Cards eighth – Howry humming
Bobby Howry retired his men in order.

Cubs ninth – Izzy time quiet
Jason Isringhausen made an error covering first on Jacque Jones as Pujols' toss bounced off his chest, but that was it.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Sunday vs. Cubs: Jason Marquis vs. Greg Maddux 1:15pm WB11
Monday vs. Pirates: Jeff Suppan vs. Oliver Perez 7:10pm FSNM
Tuesday vs. Pirates: Chris Carpenter vs. Victor Santos 7:10pm FSNM
Wednesday vs. Pirates: Mark Mulder vs. Zach Duke 12:10pm FSNM/ESPN

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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