Game Observations – Thursday – Cards 6-2

On Thursday night, the Cardinals took the first in a four-game weekend series at home as they defeated the Washington Nationals by a 6-2 score.

On Thursday night, the Cardinals took the first in a four-game weekend series at home as they defeated the Washington Nationals by a 6-2 score. In appropriate symmetry, the Cards record improved to 15-7, while the Nats are now 7-15.

Sidney Ponson took a shutout into the seventh inning, while Jim Edmonds clubbed a three-run home run and Scott Spiezio walked, singled and added a two-run triple. So Taguchi walked, singled and doubled. Despite going 0-for-5, Juan Encarnacion scored twice. In what will be a regular occurrence, Albert Pujols walked twice.

One year ago today
On April 27, 2005, Chris Carpenter celebrated this 30th birthday by defeating the Brewers 6-3 at Busch. Mark Grudzielanek hit for the cycle. In the process, the Cardinals won their sixth in a row, 11th of 12 and led the NL Central by 4-1/2 games over the Cubs and Reds.

The match-up
Sidney Ponson vs. lefty Michael O'Connor. Mr. O'Connor was making his major-league debut.

The line-up
Eckstein, Luna, Pujols, Encarnacion, Edmonds, Spiezio, Molina, Taguchi and Ponson. Hector Luna continued in the #2 spot and Juan Encarnacion remained in the clean-up spot for the second consecutive game. Jim Edmonds returned after a day off.

On to the game…

Nats first – Yadi's cannon
Alfonso Soriano singled off Eckstein's glove to start the game. Despite Soriano having a good jump, Molina barely threw him out trying to steal second. Two fly ball outs followed.

Cards first – Error leads to three
Eckstein worked a lead-off walk. With two out, Encarnacion reached with first baseman Nick Johnson couldn't hold a throw bounced from third base. Edmonds made them pay as he clobbered a pitch deep into the seats in right. Spiezio ended up at third base as transplanted second baseman Soriano missed a catchable liner. The lunatic Cardinals scorer gave Spiezio a hit. Molina stranded him there. Cards 3-0.

Nats second – Broken bat
Jose Guillen fanned then Ponson sawed off Ryan Zimmerman's bat, which flew into the air and landed in the infield turf as if it was a lance.

Cards second – Two on, none in
Ponson drew a one-out walk. Eckstein followed with a single up the middle. That was it.

Nats third – Rolling
Another in-order frame for Sir Sid.

Cards third – A walk
Spiezio drew a two-out walk, but had no help.

Nats fourth – Defense sharp
The speedster Soriano singled leading off. The ball shot past third, but Taguchi got to the ball quickly and made a great throw to second. Soriano would have been out had he tried. Molina then picked him off, but didn't get the call. It didn't matter as Pujols started a 3-6-3 to clear the bases. Ponson fanned Nick Johnson for the third out.

Cards fourth – RISP wasted
Taguchi took a lead-off walk. Ponson dropped a perfect sac bunt to move So up. Nothing else good happened.

Nats fifth – Isolated double
Ryan Church doubled to deep center with one down. It was hit so hard that Edmonds couldn't get back, though he played the ball well. No more trouble ensued.

Cards fifth – Quiet
Neither team had any baserunners in the inning.

Cards sixth – Two more wasted
So singled with two down against Jason Bergmann. He's not hitting for any power, but at least he is hitting. Ponson followed with a single hit harder than Taguchi's. 70-year-old Frank Robinson was caught napping in the Nats' dugout. Eckstein stranded both on a fly to center.

Nats seventh – Ponson out of gas
Good thing I am not superstitious. As Dan and Al are going on and on about how well Ponson is pitching, Johnson doubled past first base leading off. Ponson issuing a two-out walk to Zimmerman brought a visit from Dave Duncan as Brad Thompson quickly warmed up. Brian Schneider drove them both home with a double into the right field corner. That was it for Sid. Royce Clayton singled off Thompson and Luna kicked the ball toward left field. However, Schneider stumbled and stayed at third. Marlon Byrd pinch hit and grounded into a force out to end it. Cards 3-2.

Cards seventh – Insurance bought
Luna and Pujols took lead-off walks against reliever Gary Majewski. Luna was forced out at third as clean up man Encarnacion failed to execute a sacrifice bunt. Edmonds popped up, but Scott Spiezio picked up the team with a two-run double to center. Cards 5-2.

Nats eighth – Brad on the mark
Brad Thompson retired the side in his only full inning of work and looked sharp in the process. He fanned Johnson swinging for the third out. After Thompson hadn't pitched for four days, Hungo criticized Dave Duncan for carrying 12 pitchers. His logic was that the starters are going deep into games and a true long man isn't needed more than about once every two weeks. Makes sense.

Cards eighth – One more, anyway
So Taguchi doubled to right. John Rodriguez pinch hit and slammed a ball to deep left center. Ryan Church caught the ball, but lost control on the transfer. It bounced off the wall but did not hit the ground. However, the umpires ruled a hit. Taguchi took third as Rodriguez was given a double on what should have been a fly out. Felix Rodriguez took over on the mound. He nailed Eckstein on the first pitch out of his hand. That loaded the bases for pinch-hitter Aaron Miles. His sac fly scored So. Pujols walked to reload the sacks. Encarnacion hit a bloop fly to short right that looked to be a single, but John Rodriguez had to wait to head home and was thrown out on a force play. Joey Eischen pitched inside to Edmonds on two straight offerings and flied out on the third. Cards 6-2.

Nats ninth – Hancock signs off
With no save opportunity for Jason Isringhausen, Josh Hancock was given an inning of work. Eckstein made a nice backhand stab and throw to nail Guillen at first for the highlight of a 1-2-3 inning.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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. John Patterson 1:15pm WB11
Monday at Reds: Mark Mulder vs. Dave Williams 6:10pm FSNM
Tuesday at Reds: Sidney Ponson vs. Bronson Arroyo 11:35am FSNM

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

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