Game Observations – Saturday – Cards 2-1

Albert Pujols led his teammates to a 2-1 victory on Saturday afternoon, as the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the four-game home weekend series against the Washington Nationals.

Albert Pujols led his teammates to a 2-1 victory on Saturday afternoon, as the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the four-game weekend series against the Washington Nationals. The Cards improved their record to 16-8, while the Nats are now 8-16.

Chris Carpenter allowed just one run on eight hits in seven innings, but Livan Hernandez pitched better. Albert Pujols made it alright as he clubbed his major league record 14th home run of the month to retake the lead in the eighth inning. It was his seventh game-winning RBI of the young season. Braden Looper picked up the win in relief and despite walking the bases loaded in the ninth, Jason Isringhausen collected the save, his seventh of the year.

One year ago today
On April 29, 2005, the first-place Cards defeated the Atlanta Braves by a 6-5 mark at Turner Field. Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson pitched, but neither was dominating. In what was hardly a surprise, Albert Pujols hit a two-run home run for the final margin of victory.

The match-up
Chris Carpenter vs. Livan Hernandez.

The line-up
Eckstein, Encarnacion, Pujols, Edmonds, Spiezio, Taguchi, Molina, Luna and Carpenter. Juan Encarnacion returned to the line-up and was put right back in the #2 spot. So Taguchi also rejoined the starting nine with Hector Luna as John Rodriguez and Aaron Miles sat.

On to the game…

Nats first – Delay did not hurt
Despite a short rain delay, Chris Carpenter's first inning on the mound went smoothly with the help of a nice running catch by Edmonds in center.

Cards first – Help to get out on top
Juan Encarnacion singled with one out. Albert Pujols flied out to right, except Jose Guillen let the ball clang off his glove. Encarnacion should have been out at second but the throw got away from shortstop on Royce Clayton. Guillen picked up a pair of errors on the play. Edmonds singled to load the bases. Scott Spiezio's sacrifice fly scored the run. Cards 1-0.

Nats second – Two on, two whiff
Guillen singled leading off. Marlon Byrd also singled with one out. Brian Schneider and Royce Clayton both fanned, each flailing at patented Carpenter breaking balls.

Cards second – Over fast
The 7-8-9 hitters were no threat.

Nats third – Got it, got it, got it
Ground ball, Spiezio to Pujols times three.

Cards third – Livan loaded
Why must Juan Encarnacion feel the need to swing at the first pitch seemingly every time? He flied out to center for the second out. Pujols drew a two-out walk. Edmonds took a four-pitch walk as the strike zone looks very narrow. Spiezio worked a full-count before collecting a walk of his own to load the bases. Taguchi lined out to Livan to end it.

Nats fourth – Guillen takes run back as Nats get five outs
Jose Guillen tied the game with a line drive home run to left with one down. One of the Nats bench players, Damian Jackson, was tossed as loud complaining about the strike zone continued. Carp looked to have Byrd fanned, but strike three was called a foul ball. With second life, Byrd dropped a broken bat single to short center. Eckstein then erred, letting a grounder go through his legs. Schneider's force out stalled the threat. Tie 1-1.

Cards fourth – Goose egg
Those 7-8-9 guys did it again. What is "it", you ask? Nothing.

Nats fifth – Albert saves two
Soriano reached on an infield single to short. Eckstein gave it a good sliding effort and throw, but the speedy Soriano beat it out. Jose Vidro singled past Luna to put two on with one out. They were both stranded as Pujols made a back-handed stab on a wild throw by Spiezio that just stayed in the heel of his mitt.

Cards fifth – Lost bats
Pujols tossed his bat away on what he thought was ball four and flied out on the next pitch to end the inning. Livan has retired seven straight Cardinals.

Nats sixth – Byrd dropping
Byrd collected his third hit of the game with a one-out single to center. He was stranded.

Cards sixth – Missed chance
Spiezio singled with one out. It was the Cards' first hit since the first inning and just third overall. Molina came up with two down and Spiezio in scoring position, but he popped out.

Nats seventh – Big K
Vidro reached on a ball off Carpenter's foot with two outs. It is the Nats' eighth hit of the day. Carp fanned Nick Johnson swinging for out #3.

Cards seventh – Carp is done
John Gall pinch hit for Carpenter with one out. He ground out to short on the second pitch he saw. After an Eckstein walk, Encarnacion lined out to short for the third out.

Nats eighth – Taken for a Loop
Braden Looper took over on the mound and retired his men in order, including a called strikeout of the pesky Byrd to end it.

Cards eighth – Pujols does it all (again)
Jon Rauch was called on to pitch. Bad idea for the Nats, as Pujols put a ball into the back of Cards' bullpen in right field. It was Pujols' 14th home run of the month, a new major league record. This time, the curtain call was totally justified. Spiezio singled to right with one out. Even though Spiezio was breaking toward second, Taguchi bounced into an inning-ending double play. Cards 2-1.

Nats ninth – Izzy time scarier as usual
Looper yielded to Jason Isringhausen for the final three outs. The second out was contentious, as Royce Clayton kicked his swinging bunt while in fair territory. Molina threw him out unnecessarily, but initially Clayton was called safe. Another umpire helped to correctly reverse the call. Izzy walked pinch-hitter Daryle Ward. Oddly, Marlon Anderson was asked to pinch-run on a 3-2 count, as Izzy then walked Alfonso Soriano. Vidro took four straight balls to load the bases. Nick Johnson helped by swinging on the first pitch. Izzy handled the comebacker, but his lob to first was low and short, yet Pujols recorded the out just in time. Whew!

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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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