Game Observations – Sat. 5/20 – Cards 4-2

The first-place Cardinals took the second straight game in their road "rivalry" series with the Kansas City Royals by a 4-2 score on Saturday night. Anthony Reyes earned the win and Albert Pujols hit his 21st home run of the season.

The first-place Cardinals took the second game of their road "rivalry" series with the Kansas City Royals by a 4-2 score on Saturday night. The Cards' 28-15 record kept them ahead of the pack in the National League Central Division. They have won 11 of their last 14 and 13 games over .500 represents another season-high water mark.

In his first start of the season and second of his big league career, Anthony Reyes pitched a four-hit shutout over 5-2/3 innings. He fanned one and walked one in a very nice outing. Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his league-leading 14th save of the season.

Juan Encarnacion and David Eckstein were each on base three times with a walk, single and double. Encarnacion drove home the only run of the game until who else but Albert Pujols hit a three-run home run in the eighth to ice the game.

One year ago today
On May 20, 2005, the Cardinals defeated Kansas City 7-6 as John Mabry went 3-for-5 with his first career grand slam and five RBI. Mark Mulder won his sixth straight game, working 5-2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. Albert Pujols had three hits and Yadier Molina drove in a key insurance run with a single in the eighth inning.

The match-up
Anthony Reyes vs. Denny Bautista. Each is looking for his first win of the season. Bautista had a stint on the disabled list of about four weeks, though. This is his fifth start of the season.

The line-up
Eckstein, Spiezio (DH), Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Rodriguez, Molina and Miles.
Despite early word that Larry Bigbie would see action in two games at designated hitter, Tony La Russa is riding the hot hand of Scott Spiezio. Edmonds and Encarnacion swapped back to their regular five and six spots, respectively, with a right-hander pitching. As usual, the pair of Taguchi and Luna were replaced by Rodriguez and Miles.

On to the game…

Cards first – Ten pitches
The first three hitters were retired.

Royals first – Reyes gets his feet wet
Mientkiewicz singled up the middle on the seventh pitch of his two-out at-bat, but Sanders lined out to Miles for the third out.

Cards second – Two on
Leading off, Rolen was hit by a pitch. Encarnacion singled to left with one out. But, Rodriguez fanned and Molina's force out ended the threat.

Royals second – K for RAY-ES
Reyes collected his first strikeout on a slider to John Buck that ended the inning.

Cards third – Albert misses RBI opp
Eckstein shot a one-out double that bounced off the wall in left. Spiezio's ground out moved Eckstein to third. Bautista didn't throw a strike until the count was 3-0 and Pujols took it. He grounded out on the next pitch.

Royals third – 1-2-3
Reyes breezed through another inning.

Cards fourth – Hustling a run
Rolen singled leading off. Edmonds came in on an 0-for-14 stretch after his 11-game hit streak ended during game two of the Mets series. On a full count, Edmonds fanned. Rolen was running on the pitch and the Royals' catcher John Buck threw wild, enabling Rolen to take third with one out. Encarnacion singled past short to collect the RBI and made a very aggressive play, taking second base as the ball died in the left-center gap. Rodriguez bounced out to first as Juan moved up with two out. Molina was robbed by Graffanino at third base to end it. Cards 1-0.

Royals fourth – First RISP
Reggie Sanders singled with one out. Emil Brown just missed a line-drive home run to left before walking with two down. But, Reyes got Tony Graffanino to escape the jam.

Cards fifth – Denny dominates
Spiezio fanned swinging to end a 1-2-3 inning.

Royals fifth – Eck glove love
Eckstein made a nice running catch with his back to the plate while running in short left for the third out off the bat of Shane Costa. Rodriguez slid to avoid a collision.

Cards sixth – Seven straight for Batista ended
Leading off, Pujols' chopper almost tore the arm off Andres Blanco. But, the shortstop picked himself up and just threw Albert out at first. With two down, Edmonds singled past first base. Mientkiewicz dove toward the line, but the ball bounced off his chest. Juan grounded into a force out to finish the inning.

Royals sixth – The Stairsmaster relieves Reyes
Minky singled with one out. With Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek on the left side and Graffanino at third, if I was covering this team, I would use a lot of nicknames. With Sanders coming up, Duncan came out to speak with Reyes. Tyler Johnson began to throw in the pen. Minky was erased on a fielders' choice at second as Miles made a nice spin and throw. Eckstein made a Pujols-like stretch on the bag at second. With that and the lefty Matt Stairs coming up, Johnson received the call to take the mound. A wild pitch put Sanders in scoring position. For the second straight night, Johnson was the Stairsmaster, as the DH Stairs took a called strike three.

Cards seventh – Add another Scrabble name to the list
Deposed closer Ambiorix Burgos took the mound for the Royals and retired the Cardinals hitters in order.

Royals seventh – Braden bags a Buck
The forgotten man, Braden Looper, came in along with So Taguchi. Looper had a nice 1-2-3 inning, ending it with a swinging strikeout of Buck.

Cards eighth – Burgos blasted
Burgos is throwing 97 MPH, but couldn't throw three strikes to Eckstein, who drew a lead-off walk. Spiezio dropped a ball into short center between Costa and Grudz. The three Royals fans in the stands booed the defensive (non) play. Pujols took the very next pitch onto the grass hill in dead center at the 410 foot mark for a three-run jack. The monitors compared The cheers made it sound like a home game at Busch. In fact, they were screaming for a curtain call, but fortunately didn't get it. Rolen followed with a single to right and took second on an Edmonds ground out. With second base open and one out, Encarnacion was walked intentionally to get to So. Burgos left in favor of Joe Nelson, who got the last two outs. But, the damage was done. Cards 4-0.

Royals eighth – zzz
On a bunt, Blanco beat Looper in a footrace to first as the runner dived head-first into the bag at first. He is lucky Looper didn't spike his hand. With the lefty hitter Costa coming up, Randy Flores was called upon to pitch. Estaban German pinch-hit and singled up the middle. Another single, this one by Grudz to left, scored the first Royals run as Taguchi's throw home was off-line. Josh Hancock was warming up in the bullpen. Flores fanned Minky for the first out. Duncan came out to make the change to Hancock with Sanders coming up. His RBI double shot over So's head in left, but So fired the ball back in fast. Grudz helped out by running through the stop sign at third as Eckstein's relay to Molina was on the mark. Cards 4-2.

Cards ninth – Elmer befuddles Cards
New Royals closer Elmer Dessens was given some work. Eckstein reached as his ball bounced off Dessens. Blanco made it very close at first as he made the pick-up and throw barehanded. Well, you'd expect the throw to be that way, wouldn't you? A strike-‘em out, throw-‘em out double play ended the threat. Spiezio expressed his unhappiness to the home plate umpire over over the called third strike.

Royals ninth – Izzy time
Jason Isringhausen went full on Brown before walking him leading off. Graffanino squashed that as he hit a tailor-made double play grounder to Eckstein. Izzy retired pinch-hitter Paul Bako swinging on a curveball to end the game and collect his 14th save of the season.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Sunday @ Kansas City: Jeff Suppan vs. Scott Elarton 1:10 p.m. WB11
Monday @ San Francisco: Mark Mulder vs. Jamey Wright 9:15 p.m. FSNM
Tuesday @ San Fran: Jason Marquis vs. Matt Morris 9:15 p.m. FSNM
Wed. @ San Fran: Chris Carpenter vs. Noah Lowry 2:35 p.m. FSNM
Thursday: Off day

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

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