Game Observations – Tuesday – Cards 6-3

On Tuesday night, Juan Encarnacion led the Cardinals as they took their second straight in the three-game midweek series at home, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates by a 6-3 score.

On Tuesday night, the Cardinals took their second straight in the three-game midweek series at home as they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates by a 6-3 score. The Cards' record improved to 13-7, while the Pirates are now 5-17.

Jeff Suppan survived a shaky start to allow just four hits and three runs, only one earned, in seven innings. Braden Looper and Jason Isringhausen finished up. The latter earned his sixth save. Juan Encarnacion starred with the bat and glove. He missed the easiest part of a cycle with a double, triple, home run and collected four RBI. Hector Luna had three singles and Jim Edmonds was on base three times with two hits and a walk.

One year ago today
On April 25, 2005, the Cardinals and Brewers were rained out in the first of a three-game series. The Cardinals' record remained at 12-5 and their NL Central lead remained at 3.5 games.

Closing the bat flip flap
Albert Pujols explained his bat flip after hitting a home run off Oliver Perez by saying he was exacting punishment for disrespect of the game due to Perez' pointing antics on the mound. I hadn't commented on it until now, though I didn't like it. While I understand Pujols' logic, I still disagree. He just lowered himself to Perez' level. Scott Rolen apparently took Albert aside and straightened him out. I like that a lot. Pujols' later comments and actions after his home run Monday night showed the theatrics are apparently history.

Nomar knocks lights out
Houston closer Brad Lidge was given another ugly memory Monday night. Ahead by one run with one out in the top of the ninth, Lidge served up a grand slam to the Dodgers' Nomar Garciaparra. The Astros lost the game as a result.

In case you're wondering
Ken Griffey, Jr. with Seattle in 1997 and Arizona's Luis Gonzalez in 2001 have joint ownership of the major league record for home runs in April with 13. With 12, Albert Pujols has five games after Tuesday to take the record for his own.

Zambraino?
I saw on game highlights that Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano broke his bat over his knee after striking out last night. Apparently he feels he needs to take over the offense for injured Derrek Lee. On the mound, Zambrano fanned 12, but got a no-decision. Glad to see he has his temper under control.

Wet pavement (off topic)
Will someone please tell me why every single automobile-related commercial ever filmed depicts wet pavement, even though the sun is usually out? Believe it or not, during the game, it happened again in a Cialis commercial with a couple on bicycles. (insert your own punch line here)

The match-up
Jeff Suppan opposed right-hander Victor Santos. Suppan was looking to erase memories of his previous start, when he allowed eight runs in two-plus innings against the Bucs last week.

The line-up
Eckstein, Luna, Pujols, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Spiezio, Bennett, Taguchi and Suppan. In the daily rotation of #2 hitters, Hector Luna is the new man. So Taguchi got his second consecutive start over John Rodriguez. Yadier Molina received the night off as Gary Bennett received his third start of the season. Scott Rolen is expected to miss two games due to bronchitis.

On to the game…

Bucs first – Inefficient
Suppan retired the first three hitters in order, but it took him 18 pitches to do so.

Cards first – First blood
Eckstein fanned swinging – an odd occurrence. Luna singled sharply to right center. He easily swiped second and moved up on a fielding error by the second baseman on the throw. That led to an intentional walk of Pujols. The Busch fans began to boo. They'd better get used to it. Edmonds stroked a first-pitch single to center to score the run and move Albert to third. Yes, Encarnacion shot a ground-rule double into the right field corner to score the second. Cards 2-0.

Bucs second – Taking one
Burnitz was plunked by a pitch with one out. He was erased in an inning-ending 6-4-3.

Cards second – Picked off
With two down, Eckstein reached on a ball that Joe Randa at third couldn't tame. He was promptly picked off by Santos.

Bucs third – Slop
#8 hitter, catcher Ronny Paulino singled up the middle with one out. Santos bunted on a disputed play, as he and Bennett collided out of the box. La Russa argued as Santos was awarded first by interference. Spiezio made a nice effort trying to catch a Chris Duffy foul ball while running away from the plate, but just missed it. Duffy was hit on the foot by a pitch to load the bases. Dave Duncan made his initial appearance of the night. Jack Wilson's single to center scored the first run. Suppan fanned Bay looking. Craig Wilson's pop-up fell between Luna and Edmonds on a play that looked to be Pirate-quality defense. The second run scored and Spiezio saved the third by flagging down a throw far wide of third base. Bucs 3-2.

Cards third – Juan's curtain call
Luna singled up the middle again leading off, but was out stealing with Edmonds up and two out. Jim walked. Encarnacion then hit a line drive home run to left field. As I predicted would happen, a curtain call ensued and Juan obliged. Good for him, but maybe he should have booed the fans! Cards 4-3.

Bucs fourth – More Juan
Encarnacion made an outstanding diving effort to haul in Paulino's line drive for the third out.

Cards fourth – RISP stranded
Bennett drew a lead-off walk. So moved him up into scoring position, but that was it.

Bucs fifth – Suppan straight
Three more down makes it seven in a row for the Cardinals pitcher.

Cards fifth – The Juan Show
Pujols singled to left with one out. Burnitz tried to stop Encarnacion's shot to right but the ball got past him as Albert scored and Juan rolled into third. Spiezio flied to right for the third out. Cards 5-3.

Cards sixth – Bases loaded
Against Salomon Torres, Suppan walked but the ball got away and he chugged to first. Eckstein singled. Luna slapped another single, a first-pitch number up the middle. There is no place to put Pujols this time. Ernie Hays is playing "Iron Man" on the organ. Kinda weird. His broken bat grounder to short was the third out.

Bucs seventh – More Soup success
Suppan had retired 12 consecutive batters before Paulino singled with two out. Brad Thompson is warming up as Dave Duncan came out to discuss pinch-hitter Nate McLouth. Eckstein leapt up to snare the liner to end the inning.

Cards seventh – The other Scott homers
Reliever Roberto Hernandez took over as Edmonds softly singled to right. Even though he has three extra-base hits on the night, Encarnacion tried to lay down a bunt before grounding into a double play. Likely no cycle for Juan. But, Spiezio stroked a home run to right to open up the lead a bit. Cards 6-3.

Bucs eighth – Looper super
Braden Looper took over in what should be his regular role. Three batters, three outs, although Pujols had to jump high to pull down a high throw from Spiezio for the third out.

Bucs ninth – Izzy time
Spiezio and Izzy almost collided, both trying to catch a pop-up for the second out. Randa walked with two down, but that was it.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Wednesday vs. Pirates: Mark Mulder vs. Zach Duke 12:10pm FSNM/ESPN
Thursday vs. Nationals: Sidney Ponson vs. John Patterson 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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