Game Observations – Sun. 5/21 – Cards 10-3

The first-place Cardinals swept their road "rivalry" series with the Kansas City Royals, taking the final contest by a 10-3 score Sunday afternoon.

The first-place Cardinals swept their road "rivalry" series with the Kansas City Royals, taking the final contest by a 10-3 score Sunday afternoon. The Cards' 29-15 record puts them four games ahead of the Reds in the National League Central Division. They have won 12 of their last 15 and 14 games over .500 represents yet another season-high water mark.

Jeff Suppan pitched another "Jeff Suppan game", allowing seven hits, two walks and two hit batsmen in seven innings, but just two runs. The early runs came from homers by Albert Pujols, Chris Duncan and Hector Luna. Every starter had at least one hit except for John Rodriguez, who did collect an RBI.

One year ago today
On May 21, 2005, Larry Walker hit s three-run home run in the seventh inning to cap a 6-5 Cardinals comeback win. Walker finished 2-for-3 with four RBI to lead the Cards. Yadier Molina had two hits and scored twice. Matt Morris won his fourth straight decision after returning from the disabled list and Jason Isringhausen notched save number 11.

The match-up
Former Royal Jeff Suppan took on former Astro Scott Elarton.

The line-up
Miles, Rodriguez (RF), Pujols, Edmonds, Spiezio (3B), Bigbie (LF), Duncan (DH), Bennett and Luna (SS).
La Russa loaded the line-up with five left-handed hitters – all he has. Regulars David Eckstein, Scott Rolen and Yadier Molina took the day off. As La Russa promised, his surprise DH was called up from Memphis when Anthony Reyes was sent down, Chris Duncan. Rather than his spring training #62, Duncan was issued the #16, which looks a lot like Dad's #18 at first glance.

On to the game…

Cards first – Anxious?
Miles singled, but was erased in a double play off the bat of Rodriguez. Pujols flied out to left. Elarton needed just five pitches to collect the three outs.

Royals first – A runner, too
Leading off, Shane Costa was hit by a pitch but was retired on a force play at second started by Estaban German. Only his speed averted the double play. With two out, Spiezio made a nice stop and a throw to force German at second.

Cards second – 1-2-3
Down in order.

Royals second – In order
Pujols made a nice stop to his right and tossed to Suppan from his knees for the second out.

Cards third – Cy Scott?
Elarton completed his first time through the line-up with the minimum number of batters faced.

Royals third – Two-out trouble
Bigbie made a great play, running a long way to slide on the track in foul ground in left to catch the second out. Costa singled to left with two down. German and Mientkiewicz both walked to load the bases. Duncan came out to chat. A 6-4 grounder finally ended the inning.

Cards fourth – Two more, then Albert
With two down, Pujols hit a line drive the other way off the top of the wall and into the right field bullpen, going deep for the third day in a row. It is #22 on the season. No other hitter in the majors has more than 15. Edmonds hit a ball to his opposite field, but Emil Brown leapt and caught the ball at the top of the fence. Cards 1-0.

Royals fourth – Game tied
Matt Stairs led off with a double into the right field corner. Rodriguez made a strong throw and almost caught Stairs at second. Angel Berroa moved the runner up. Paul Bako's two out single to center scored the run. Edmonds dived in an attempt to catch Ba ball, but was just short. That was it, though. Tie 1-1.

Cards fifth – Two homers
Spiezio reached via a lead-off walk. Brown made a nice diving grab near the left field line to retire Bigbie. Chris Duncan homered to straight-away center for two and Luna followed one out later with a solo jack to left. Cards 4-1.

Royals fifth – At the corners
German singled up the middle with one out. Emil Brown singled to put runners at the corners for Stairs. A 4-3 bailed out Suppan.

Cards sixth – RISP stranded
John Rodriguez took a walk leading off. Pujols hit a cue shot to Minky at first that moved the runner up. Same for Edmonds. Berroa snared Spiezio's shot to short to end the frame.

Royals sixth – No doubt shot
Aaron Guiel blasted a home run to right with one out. Henry Blanco reached via a two-out double as Bigbie made a diving attempt to catch it. Costa was hit on the leg by a pitch again. Brad Thompson and Randy Flores began to throw as Duncan came out to stall… er discuss matters. Molina was relaxing in the dugout and had to sprint out to the pen to warm up one of the relievers. A grounder to the shortstop again allowed Suppan to dodge much worse damage. Between innings, Suppan, Bennett and Duncan had a conference on the bench. Cards 4-2.

Cards seventh – Cracking it open
Bigbie doubled into the right field corner. Guiel's throw got away, but Oquendo held Bigbie at second. Andy Sisco took over for Elarton and started with facing pinch hitter So Taguchi. So was unable to bunt to the left side. Instead his bunt went to the pitcher, who threw the ball wild of third. The run scored easily and So took second base. He was easily thrown out trying to steal third. There were no outs! Bennett drew a walk. Luna did, too. Mike Wood was the next pitcher. Miles greeted Wood with a single to right to load the bases. Rodriguez' grounder to second base scored Bennett. That opened up first base for an intentional walk to Pujols – his seventh official one of the season. Edmonds made them pay with a single to right that scored two. Pujols cruised into third and scored on a Spiezio single to right. Edmonds also tried to score, but apparently was blocked off the plate. As he and the catcher Bako stood there waiting for a call from the ump, Edmonds tried to step on the plate, but was tagged out first. Cards 9-2.

Royals seventh – Cheap earned run
Randy Flores was back in there. Stairs singled with two out. Edmonds lost a fly ball in the sun as the ball clanked off his glove and the run scored. He was wearing sunglasses earlier, but didn't have them on now for some reason. The home team scorer gave Guiel a double and an RBI. Cards 9-3.

Cards eighth – Two more on
So singled with one out. Bennett also singled on a ball to left that looked catchable. A forceout at second put runners at the corners, but Bennett made a nice hard slide on the play. That was it.

Royals eighth – Brad sharp
Brad Thompson took over and made quick work of his three hitters.

Cards ninth – Turkey time
Jimmy Gobble came on to pitch in garbage time. Pujols walked with one out. Juan Encarnacion pinch-hit for Edmonds and singled past short. Spiezio walked to load them up, though he seemed to hesitate before taking his base. Bigbie fanned before So's chopper in front of second scored Pujols. Bennett fanned with the bases reloaded. Cards 10-3.

Royals ninth – Over with
Thompson received a second inning of work as Taguchi took over in center. Brown singled to short left with two outs and took second uncontested before a fly ball ended it.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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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