Game Observations – Sat. – Cards 9-1 - FREE!

The first-place Cardinals took their second straight in the three-game home weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, winning 9-1 on Saturday evening.

The first-place Cardinals took their second straight in the three-game home weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, winning 9-1 on Saturday evening. The Birds have won four straight, seven of eight, and all seven home series so far this season. Their 24-13 record represents the first time all season they have been eleven games over .500. With a Cincinnati loss, the Cards took over first place in the National League Central Division.

There were plenty of offensive stars on the evening as the offense is showing signs of meshing. In 37 games, Albert Pujols has reached 19 home runs faster than anyone in the history of baseball. He had three hits, scored three and drove in three. Scott Rolen plated five with a home run and a double. They were Rolen's first RBI since April 16, which was a week prior to his illness that sidelined him for over a week. John Rodriguez had three hits and scored twice. Jim Edmonds was on base three times with a pair of hits and a walk and extended his hitting streak to nine games in the process. David Eckstein logged his fourth consecutive multi-hit game.

On the pitching side of the ledger, Jason Marquis was a bit shaky early. Although he walked four, he ended up allowing just three hits and one run in seven innings to collect the win, his first since April 17, a span of five starts. He improved his season record to 4-4 in the process.

One year ago today
On May 13, 2005, the Cardinals fell on the road to the New York Mets by the score of 2-0. It was the first time the Cardinals' offense had been shut out that season. Jason Marquis lost to Tom Glavine. Cliff Floyd hit two home runs to supply the Mets' offense.

Matty No Mo
Tony La Russa's prediction that San Francisco's Matt Morris will end up in the top ten in the National League in ERA this season seems hollow, as he was slapped around again, this time by the Dodgers on Friday. His ERA ballooned to 6.20 and his record is now 2-4.

Edmonds' home run milestones
Our friend Lee Sinins of BaseballEncyclopedia.com reminds us that Jim Edmonds' home run Friday night was his 336th of his career. That broke his tie with Darryl Strawberry and Jeff Kent at 335 and joins him with Joe Adcock in 79th place all-time in MLB. As a Cardinal, it was Edmonds' 215th, leaving him sixth on the team's career list. Just ahead are Mark McGwire at 220 and Albert Pujols at 219.

Remember him?
Juan Mateo pitched seven two-hit shutout innings while striking out nine and walking none for Double-A West Tennessee on Wednesday. He has posted a 2.35 ERA in seven starts there this season. Mateo had been selected by the Cardinals from the Cubs as a Rule 5 player in December, but was returned in March when it was clear that he was not major league-ready. Still, if the Cubs keep going through pitchers and Mateo continues to impress, we might see him in September.

The Word from McKay
I had a long chat with First Base Coach Dave McKay prior to the game. He was extremely complimentary about Third Base Coach Jose Oquendo's influence on the infielders, especially the Latino players. "Jose doesn't baby them and gets on them when it is needed." McKay noted that Hector Luna is one who receives a lot of attention from Oquendo. Luna needs to be reminded to slow down his defensive game according to McKay, while Aaron Miles has established the reputation as a an even better game player than a practice player. While Scott Spiezio has seen some practice time at second base, he is not viewed as more than a contingency option there, McKay said.

Quote of the Day #1
From John Rodriguez: "I'm treating this like Groundhog Day… You can never be too comfortable up here… I have to be producing." You can listen to Rodriguez' entire interview elsewhere on this website.

Quote of the Day #2
Early in the day, Tony La Russa mentioned that Sidney Ponson was scheduled to play catch on Saturday to test his injured elbow. A short while later, I found Sir Sid, who had been working out in some manner. He was in his usual jovial mood, which was a good sign, but he would not comment about his status other than to say, "If I was having surgery, I sure wouldn't be here!"

The match-up
Jason Marquis opposed former Expos/Nationals right-hander Claudio Vargas. Vargas came into the day having only allowed two runs in his last 19 innings and three starts. Four of his six outings this season were considered quality starts. On the other hand, Marquis had allowed 18 earned runs in his last three outings, over 16-2/3 innings.

The line-up
Eckstein, Rodriguez, Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Encarnacion, Bennett, Miles and Marquis. The only change in the top eight is Gary Bennett for Yadier Molina behind the plate. Bennett and Marquis last worked together on May 3, a 5-4 Astros win in Houston. Bennett is getting his fourth start of the month.

On to the game…

D'backs first – Tracy ducks third out
Chad Tracy went full then fouled off four more pitches before walking with two out. But, Luis Gonzalez was retired for the final out.

Cards first – Rolen erupts early as Cards bat around
John Rodriguez hopped all over the first offering he saw. The ball split the gap in right center and went to the wall for a stand-up double. He scored on a Pujols hit to center as Albert aggressively took second base when centerfielder Eric Byrnes overran the ball. I hope Albert's back held up on the hard slide. The first pitch to Jim Edmonds was up and in, causing Edmonds to break out into a wide grin. He eventually walked before Scott Rolen took a 2-0 pitch just inside the left field foul pole. Encarnacion patiently took a walk, which led to a mound conference for Arizona. Orlando Hudson at second muffed Gary Bennett's grounder, which would have been the final out. Aaron Miles took a walk to load the bases for the .222-hitting Marquis. His nubber in front of the plate led to a forceout at home. Eckstein flied out to right to end it. Cards 4-0.

D'backs second – Giving one back
Leading off, rookie Conor Jackson homered on a 1-0 pitch. Shawn Green shot a single between first and second, but was stranded. Cards 4-1.

Cards second – Albert repossesses the run
After Rodriguez fanned, Pujols took a 1-0 pitch out and over the home bullpen for his 19th home run of the year. Cards 5-1.

D'backs third – Trouble averted
Marquis walked Craig Counsell leading off. Chad Tracy drew a one out walk. That led to a Dave Duncan visit, as most of the infield came in for a listen, too. Conor Jackson fanned to end it.

Cards third – A runner
Miles singled to right with two out, but was stranded.

D'backs fourth – Twin killing
Green singled to center leading off. He was erased in a Johnny Estrada-started double play and Hudson grounded out quickly to end the frame. It was Marquis' first three-batter inning.

Cards fourth – Blown wide open
Eckstein collected a lead-off double that Hudson made a valiant effort to reach as he just crossed the line into foul territory, but the ball dropped. Rodriguez then laid down a perfect bunt and legged it out just ahead of the throw. Pujols shot a single to center to score one. Vargas was pulled in favor of Jason Grimsley. Edmonds then singled to right to bring home another. Rolen blasted a ball to the wall in left center. The double cleared the bases. All this with no out! Cards 9-1.

D'backs fifth – Finally
Marquis completed his first inning without allowing an enemy baserunner.

Cards fifth – Eck on again
Eckstein singled to left with one out, but a 1-6-3 double play off Rodriguez' bat ended it.

D'backs sixth – Rolen with the glove
Gonzalez walked with one out. Rolen snared a hot, one-hopper off the bat of Jackson to start a ‘round-the-horn double play to snuff the rally before it got going.

Cards sixth – Grimsley gets ‘em
Pujols clubbed a ball to the warning track in left-center, but it was caught for the first out. Edmonds singled to center on the first pitch, but was stranded.

D'backs seventh – Jason on the mark
Marquis retired them in order.

Cards seventh – Albert can't do it every time
With Brandon Medders on the mound, Miles singled to center with one out. Larry Bigbie pinch hit for Marquis and walked. Hector Luna was the next pinch-hitter. He struck out. Rodriguez singled to deep second base to load the bases. Hudson dove to knock down the ball to hold the runner at third. Pujols fanned to end the threat. In fact, Medders collected all three outs via K's.

D'backs eighth – Quick inning
Brian Falkenborg and Scott Spiezio entered the game, the latter replacing Pujols. Falkenborg retired pinch-hitter Andy Green, Craig Counsell and Byrnes in order.

Cards eighth – Clearing the bench (in a good way)
Greg Aquino came in to pitch for Arizona. He collected two outs – pinch-hitters So Taguchi and Yadier Molina - before hitting Spiezio with a pitch. Bennett followed with a double to center. Miles batted with two in scoring position, but ground out to his opposite number.

D'backs ninth – Mop up time
Tyler Johnson and Yadier Molina came into the game, as the latter took over at first base. I had watched Yadi take infield there this very afternoon. Damian Easley walked and moved up on a ground out when Spiezio made a nice stop at third. But, that was it.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Sun. vs. D'backs: Chris Carpenter vs. Miguel Batista 1:15 p.m. WB11
Monday: Off day
Tuesday vs. Mets: Jeff Suppan vs. Tom Glavine 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed. vs. Mets: Mark Mulder vs. Steve Trachsel 7:10 p.m. FSNM/ESPN
Thursday vs. Mets: Jason Marquis vs. Jose Lima 12:10 p.m. FSNM
Fri. @ Kansas City: Chris Carpenter vs. Denny Bautista 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Saturday @ KC: Anthony Reyes (?) vs. Jeremy Affeldt 6:10 p.m. WB11
Sunday @ Kansas City: Jeff Suppan vs. Scott Elarton 1:10 p.m. WB11

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

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