Game Observations – Mon. 5/22 – Giants 9-2

The National League Central's first-place St. Louis Cardinals fell in their initial game of the 2006 season against the San Francisco Giants by a 9-2 score Monday evening at AT&T Park. Games two and three follow on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

The first-place Cardinals fell in their initial game of the 2006 season against the San Francisco Giants by a 9-2 score Monday evening at AT&T Park. The Cards record dropped to 29-16 and their lead over the Reds in the National League Central Division is now three games.

The offense seemed jet-lagged from their trip west as they managed just six hits in eight innings against journeyman Jamey Wright, he of the career 5.09 ERA. Mark Mulder wasn't at his best, but wiggled out of trouble several times and still registered a quality start. The bullpen of Tyler Johnson and especially Braden Looper let the game get away in the eighth. It seemed fitting that the only Cardinals RBI until the game was over was collected on a ground out by Juan Encarnacion. An otherwise unmemorable garbage-time RBI single in the ninth represented Yadier Molina's first multi-hit game in over five weeks.

One year ago today
On May 22, 2005, the Cards suffered their first interleague game loss of the season by a 9-2 score at Kansas City. The Cardinals scored their two runs in the third on an RBI single by Albert Pujols that scored David Eckstein with Larry Walker scoring on the play on an error. Only three of the nine runs starter Jeff Suppan allowed were earned as the team had four miscues behind him, including three by Eckstein.

The match-up
Mark Mulder took on Jamey Wright, former Colorado Rockie, Seattle Mariner, Milwaukee Brewer, Texas Ranger, Kansas City Royal, Chicago Cub, Kansas City Royal (again) Colorado Rockie (again) and yes, even St. Louis Cardinal. He appeared in four games for the Birds during the 2002 season.

The line-up
Eckstein, Bigbie, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Molina, Miles and Mulder.
In the 45th game of the season, Larry Bigbie received his first start in the #2 hole, a spot he was expected by some to inhabit all season long. Regulars David Eckstein, Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion and Yadier Molina returned.

On to the game…

Cards first – Impatient?
Eckstein was hit by a pitch leading off. Yet, Larry Bigbie hopped all over the first pitch he saw for a 4-6-3. In a Halley's Comet moment, Pujols fanned on three pitches.

Giants first – Two-out trouble
Pedro Feliz drew a two-out walk, allowing Barry Bonds to hit. The Cardinals did not employ the usual Bonds shift, keeping Eckstein on the third-base side of the second base bag. Bonds made it a bad decision as he shot a single between first and second. Pujols was holding the runner, increasing the size of the hole. Ray Durham walked to load the bases before Steve Finley was retired on a curveball to end it.

Cards second – Out on top
Rolen led off with a very sharply-hit sinker down the third base line for a double. He has been handling the low pitches well lately. Edmonds grounded out on one pitch. Encarnacion collected the run on a chopper to third as Rolen charged home. Cards 1-0.

Giants second – Out of a jam
With Mike Matheny leading off, Eckstein took the ball in deep short. He threw a bit wildly past Pujols and when the ball got away, Matheny was awarded second. In yet another case of odd home-team scoring, the play was called a single and an error. Looked like a two-base error to me. However, Mulder buckled down and retired the next three in order without Matheny going anywhere.

Cards third – 1-2-3
Nothing doing.

Giants third – More RISP trouble
Omar Vizquel singled to deep short leading off and took second on a wild pitch. Feliz' chopper moved the runner to third for Bonds, who hit a 3-0 ball toward the first base line. While Albert got to the ball in time, the run scored in the process. Tie 1-1.

Cards fourth – Table set; No one hungry enough
Bigbie legged out a dribbler on a throwing error on the third baseman. Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds were retired, however.

Giants fourth – Three and three
Three grounders meant three outs.

Cards fifth – Nothing going
Wright cruised through the bottom three.

Giants fifth – Doubles score
Wright doubled over third base leading off. (That is the darned pitcher, folks!) Randy Winn shot another double over the charging Pujols for an RBI. Vizquel's sac bunt put Winn on third base with one out. He scored on a grounder by Feliz. The Bonds Shift was on as he popped out to centerfield. Giants 3-1.

Cards sixth – Nice start foiled
Eckstein led off with a single up the middle. A strike-em out, throw-em out double play on a 3-2 count executed perfectly from the Giants' perspective emptied the bases for Pujols. As luck would have it, Pujols shot a ball to left that the weak-kneed Bonds ole'd. The double would have meant an RBI for Albert. Rolen's grounder ended it. Ugh!

Giants sixth – Four outs required
Ray Durham drew a lead-off walk. Josh Hancock began to throw as Dave Duncan came out to the mound. Mulder is at 100 pitches and counting. Miles didn't handle Vizcaino's two-hopper for a two-out error, but a fly ball ended it.

Cards seventh – Time running out
Molina singled off the leaping Durham's glove at second base with two out. Miles hit a chopper in the same direction, but Durham made a nice catch and flip for the final out. As a result, Mulder gets to pitch one more inning. His spot is up first in the eighth.

Giants seventh – Josh in, Giants out
Vizquel drew a one-out walk. La Russa had enough and brought in Hancock to pitch. Scott Spiezio makes an appearance at second base via the double switch. Hancock collected the requisite two outs.

Cards eighth – Game on the line
Spiezio made La Russa look smart with a single to deep second base. In a terrible break, Spiezio was breaking on the hit and run as Eckstein scorched a liner to first base. Again the badly-timed double play emptied the bases with Pujols right around the corner. Bigbie walked to give Pujols a chance with a runner on base, after all. Albert's chopper to short ended the eighth.

Giants eighth – Bullpen springs a leak
Tyler Johnson walked Bonds on four straight. Pinch-runner Jason Ellison took third on Ray Durham's sharply-hit gapper to right center. Pujols gambled and lost as he came home on Steve Finley's chopper. The replays showed the home plate ump's call of our was in error. Braden Looper pitched next. Matheny moved the runners up on the first out. Brad Thompson started to warm up as Looper walked Jose Vizcaino to fill the bases. Former Cardinal Mark Sweeney pinch hit. He hit a ball off the top of the right field wall on the ninth pitch of his at-bat to score two on a hard single. A sac fly scored another. Omar Vizquel plated two more on a home run to right on a full-count offering. Giants 9-1.

Cards ninth – AB has a cold one
Edmonds singled with one out off closer Armando Benitez, who had been unscored-upon this season after missing the start of the season due to injury. Encarnacion walked. Molina collected an RBI single down the left field line. Two more outs ended it. Giants 9-2.

Giants ninth – Not required

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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
Friday @ San Diego: Jeff Suppan vs. Clay Hensley 9:05 p.m. FSNM
Saturday @ San Diego: Mark Mulder vs. Chan Ho Park 3:05 p.m. Big Fox
Sunday @ San Diego: Jason Marquis vs. Jake Peavy 3:05 p.m. WB11

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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