Game Observations – Monday – Cards 7-2

On Monday night, the Cardinals took the first of the three-game midweek series as they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-2.

On Monday night, the Cardinals took the first of the three-game midweek series as they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-2. The Cards' record improved to 12-7, while the Pirates are now 5-16.

Chris Carpenter struggled, but kept his team in the game and received a win for his efforts, allowing eight hits and two runs in six innings. Albert Pujols doubled and homered, scoring twice and driving in two. Hector Luna and So Taguchi each drove in two, as So had three singles. Adam Wainwright and Josh Hancock combined for three scoreless innings to end the game.

One year ago today
On April 24, 2005, the Cardinals finished a three-game weekend home sweep over the Astros, behind Matt Morris, 8-5. Albert Pujols put the Cards ahead for good with a two-run homer in the first. Mark Grudzielanek and David Eckstein each had three hits. The Cardinals' record improved to 12-5 and their NL Central lead remained at 3.5 games.

How bad is it with the Pirates?
It is pretty bad. I still am amazed by those who saw Pittsburgh as an improved team in 2006. This is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "The Pirates, swept in a three-game series by Houston, have lost four games in a row and six of their past seven. The record fell to 5-15, worst in the National League. Were it not for the marginally greater ineptitude of the 4-13 Kansas City Royals, it would be the worst in Major League Baseball. The start is the franchise's worst in the first 20 games since the 1957 edition also opened 5-15. That group went on to finish 62-92." At least they won the Super Bowl…

Top prospect???
The in-game gimmick on FSNM to push cell phone text messaging usage was for watchers to pick their top Cardinals prospect from a list of five. Here are the choices: Gall, Reyes, Ankiel, Duncan and Johnson. As if it matters, the "experts" at home named John Gall the winner. Foolish us, as we left Gall off our Top 40 Prospects list.

The match-up
Chris Carpenter vs. Oliver Perez. The ineffective Jeff Suppan was given an extra day off.

The line-up
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Molina, Luna, Taguchi and Carpenter. Juan Encarnacion and Jim Edmonds traded places between the #2 and #5 holes. As seems to be happening every other day, John Rodriguez and Aaron Miles sat in favor of So Taguchi and Hector Luna.

On to the game…

Bucs first – At Bay
For the second straight outing, Carpenter plunked the lead-off man. This time, it was Nate McLouth (rhymes with "mouth"). Last time, it was Chris Duffy. Jason Bay ground into a force to get the lead runner, but the double play relay was a bit late. Bay was out trying to steal to end it.

Cards first – Coulda been more
Eckstein continued his hot hitting with a lead-off single. Edmonds celebrated his placement into the #2 spot by grounding into a double play prior to Pujols launching his major league-leading 12th home run of the season into the seats in left. Cards 1-0.

Bucs second – Two RISP, neither scored
Craig Wilson stroked a leadoff single past short. With two down, Freddy Sanchez doubled into the left field corner, but So cut it off in time to hold Wilson at third. It was big as Humberto Cota took a called strike three on an inside pitch.

Cards second – Playing a hard two
Encarnacion again showed no patience by blooping a first-pitch single to center leading off. Molina took four straight balls. Hector Luna's sharp single up the middle scored the second run of the evening. Taguchi dropped a single into short right to score Molina fairly easily and put runners on the corners. Carp was the first out as he took a called strike three. Eckstein squeezed a run home and almost legged out the play down the first base line. He looked to be safe, but was called out. Cards 4-0.

Bucs third – Juan's D
Encarnacion made a nice diving play on McLouth coming in toward the infield.

Cards third – Almost a big hit
With one down, Rolen doubled off the padding on the top of the bullpen fence in left. A few more inches and it would have been a home run. Neither Encarnacion nor Molina could get him home.

Bucs fourth – Bay leaves (the park)
Bay stroked a lead-off home run, going the other way to right center. Four straight singles at the bottom of the order, including a bunt by Perez, scored one and loaded the bases for the top of the lineup. Duncan came out to chat before McLouth ground out. Cards 4-2.

Cards fourth – Ollie over Eck
Taguchi singled with one out. Carp moved him up on a sac bunt, but Eckstein took a called strike three on a full-count offering from Perez.

Bucs fifth – Mess averted
More two-out trouble as Craig Wilson took a walk and Jeromy Burnitz singled. Carp buckled down and fanned Joe Randa for the third out.

Cards fifth – Small ball comes through for three
Edmonds drew a free pass to start the frame and took second on a wild pitch. Pujols singled to center and took second as McLouth dived, but missed the catch. Pujols was credited with his 28th RBI of the season. With one down, Encarnacion's popup led to a collision between the first baseman Wilson and second baseman Sanchez as the ball fell to the turf. The Bad News Bears defense cost two runs as Pujols moved up on Molina's out and scored on Luna's single. So again didn't hit the ball hard, but it dropped into short right to score yet another. Cards 7-2.

Bucs sixth – Carp done
Carpenter finished out his evening with a trio of ground outs.

Bucs seventh – KK for WW
Adam Wainwright fanned two of three faced at the top of the order.

Cards seventh – Action and reaction
Rolen reached on a throwing error by Sanchez, which was generously scored a base hit. Rolen kept running into an out at second base. Nothing else happened.

Bucs eighth – So backscratched
Josh Hancock received some meaningful work. He plunked Craig Wilson leading off, but no harm done. So hauled in Sanchez' deep drive with his back literally against the fence in left for the third out.

Cards eighth – Keep him pitching
Hancock was allowed to bat. Didn't work as he fanned for the third out.

Bucs ninth – Hancock signs off
Humberto Cota reached on a ball that Eckstein stopped, but couldn't handle. It was a single. Jack Wilson singled to put runners on the corners. Duncan came out for a visit as Jason Isringhausen started to warm up. It wasn't needed.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Tuesday vs. Pirates: Jeff Suppan vs. Victor Santos 7:10pm FSNM
Wednesday vs. Pirates: Mark Mulder vs. Zach Duke 12:10pm FSNM/ESPN
Thursday vs. Nationals: Sidney Ponson vs. Ramon Ortiz 7:10pm FSNM
Friday vs. Nationals: Jason Marquis vs. Tony Armas, Jr. 7:10pm FSNM
Saturday vs. Nationals: Chris Carpenter vs. Livan Hernandez 1:15pm WB11
Sunday vs. Nationals: Jeff Suppan vs. Billy Traber 1:15pm WB11

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

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