Game Observations – Wed. 5/24 – Cards 10-4

The first-place St. Louis Cardinals took the final match of the three-game series against the San Francisco Giants by an 10-4 score Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park. The Cards' record improved to 31-16 as they won the fifth of five rubber matches and their 13th of 16 series played this season. Adam Wainwright led the way with his arm and bat!

The first-place St. Louis Cardinals took the final match of the three-game series against the San Francisco Giants by an 10-4 score Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park. The Cards' record improved to 31-16 as they won the fifth of five rubber matches and their 13th of 16 series played this season.

Brad Thompson took the bullpen start for the injured Chris Carpenter, but Adam Wainwright collected the win. He also hit his first career home run on the first pitch of his first-ever at-bat. Randy Flores, Tyler Johnson and Braden Looper also worked. I would be remiss if I didn't note that Looper doubled and Jason Marquis tripled and scored.

Offensively, there were 22 St. Louis baserunners. It was especially good to see the bottom of the line-up contribute. So Taguchi homered and collected three RBI. Yadier Molina plated two. The men ahead of them, Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion and Hector Luna all scored twice. Scott Spiezio and Albert Pujols each had two hits, too. Six of the starters collected seven Giants walks.

One year ago today
On May 24, 2005, the Cards plated the winning run in the 12th inning for a 2-1 win over the Pirates. Yadier Molina hit a single just past the diving Jack Wilson at short to score Reggie Sanders for the win. Starter Jason Marquis threw 112 pitches in five innings, leaving with the game tied at one after allowing a solo home run to Jason Bay. The Cards bullpen shut out the Bucs for seven innings, allowing only five hits.

The match-up
Seasoned vet Chris Carpenter was supposed to oppose unseasoned Noah Lowry. (Sorry, but I felt the need to add some spice to the mix!) However, when Carpenter came down with "scapulothoracic bursitis", pain between the shoulder blade and chest wall, Brad Thompson was given his first-even Major League start, instead. As a result, the Cards went from a likely series win to being the underdog.

The line-up
Eckstein, Spiezio (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Luna, Molina, Taguchi (CF) and Thompson.
Jim Edmonds was given the day off, with So Taguchi hitting eighth. Hector Luna and Yadier Molina returned to the line-up with Aaron Miles and Gary Bennett sitting. For the bad guys, Barry Bonds took the afternoon off, meaning he will not get home run #715 against the Cardinals. Hooray for that!

On to the game…

Cards first – Ignition, but no blast off
Eckstein started the game with his trademark sprint to first base after drawing a walk. Pujols ground into a double play to end the inning.

Giants first – No scoreless streak for Brad
Randy Winn singled to left. He scored on a triple by Omar Vizquel into the right field corner. After two outs, Mark Sweeney dropped a two-strike double just inside the left field line to collect the second run. Thompson had almost escaped with one run's damage. Giants 2-0.

Cards second – Walks help a bit
Rolen and Encarnacion walked. Luna reached on a line drive single to right to load the bases with no out. Molina grounded into a double play as one scored, but the Cards' chance for a big inning evaporated in the process. So popped out to confirm it. Giants 2-1.

Giants second – Another RISP
Todd Greene singled leading off. With one out, Lowry bunted him over to second, but So caught Winn's liner to end the threat.

Cards third – Cards not converting chances
Leading off, Jason Marquis pinch hit for Thompson and shot the first pitch into the right center alley for a relatively-easy triple. Eckstein's single past a diving Feliz at third scored the run. As the second baseman lost the ball in the sun, Spiezio reached and extended his hitting streak to seven games in the process. Pujols shot a ball off the wall in right, but the baserunners could only take one base. Still no out with the bases loaded for the second inning in a row. Rolen, who has four career Grand Slams, flied out to shallow center. Encarnacion hit a scorcher into another tough double play. Tie 2-2.

Giants third – Johnson cleans up own mess
Vizquel greeted Tyler Johnson with a single. Molina almost picked Vizquel off, as he leapt over Pujols' swipe tag. Steve Finley walked in four pitches. Vizquel stole third off Johnson as he wasn't paying attention to the runner. An angry Dave Duncan came out to talk to Johnson. It looked to be a one-sided conversation and did little good as Feliz walked to load the bases. A strikeout and a 5-4-3 enabled Johnson to escape.

Cards fourth – Too quiet
The number 6-7-8 hitters went down in order.

Giants fourth – Wainwright and Pujols have tough frame
Greene shot Adam Wainwright's first pitch into the left field corner for a leadoff double. A Dan Ortmeier hopper over Pujols' backhanded glove scored the run. Albert took an error on the play. Lowry failed in his bunt attempt as the runner was forced out at second base. Winn hit into another fielders choice and became the new runner. Vizquel singled up the middle to put runners at the corners. Finley's liner off Pujols' glove was a double and one scored, but the second runner, Vizquel, was out at the plate to end the inning. Giants 4-2.

Cards fifth – WW gets one back
I privately questioned why La Russa didn't double switch when he brought in Wainwright since the pitchers spot was due up next. I guess the brains knew what they were doing, as Wainwright not only homered in his first career at-bat, he sent the long fly to left on the very first pitch! Pujols singled to right with two out, but Rolen fanned on three pitches. Giants 4-3.

Giants fifth – Down in order
Fortunately, Wainwright's second frame was a lot smoother than his first.

Cards sixth – Own error kills Lowry
Encarnacion singled to center leading off and Luna added a single to left. Braden Looper began to warm up in the bullpen. Lowry had Encarnacion picked off, but he threw the ball several feet over Durham's head at second base. The runners moved up on the error as the force out was eliminated. Molina took advantage with an RBI single to right. So's fly ball to short right was enough for Luna to score and a poor relay exchange by the Giants allowed the slow-footed Molina to take second. Wainwright was allowed to hit and the second out ensued. Eckstein popped out for #3. Cards 5-4.

Giants sixth – More like it
Wainwright stayed on for a third inning and retired the 7-8-9 hitters.

Cards seventh – Pulling away
Pitcher Scott Munter came on and took a ball off the shin as Spiezio hit the first pitch and then won the race between the two to the bag. Rolen took a four-pitch walk. Encarnacion hit a chopper that got through the right side. Spiezio scored as Rolen took third. Luna coaxed a walk to load the bases. Molina's ball four scored another and ended Munter's reign. So slapped a single to deep short against former Cardinal Steve Kline that scored the third run of the inning. Chris Duncan's pinch hit ground out brought home run #4 in the frame. Cards 9-4.

Giants seventh – Flower power
Randy Flores was the fourth Cardinals pitcher. He whiffed Winn quickly, but walked the pesky Vizquel. Pujols started a nice 3-6 double play to end it fast.

Cards eighth – Their Brad does ok
Deposed starter Brad Hennessey pitched, as Looper began to throw again for the Cardinals. Pujols took the seventh Cardinals free pass of the day but was stranded.

Giants eighth – For a Loop
As Flores started his second frame, Pedro Feliz singled and Mark Sweeney was hit by a pitch. La Russa had enough and called Looper to come in. One pitch and a double play ensued. Rolen made a nice dive, stop and throw to collect the third out.

Cards ninth – So muscles up
So homered to left off Hennessey with two down. It was his first long ball of the season. Looper doubled into the left field corner, but was stranded. Cards 10-4.

Giants ninth – Looper and out
Looper finished them off in order.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Thursday: Off day
Friday @ San Diego: Jeff Suppan vs. Clay Hensley 9:05 p.m. FSNM
Saturday @ San Diego: Sidney Ponson vs. Chan Ho Park 3:05 p.m. Big Fox
Sunday @ San Diego: Mark Mulder vs. Jake Peavy 3:05 p.m. WB11
Monday vs. Houston: Jason Marquis vs. Roy Oswalt 3:15 p.m. FSNM
Tuesday vs. Houston: Chris Carpenter vs. Andy Pettitte 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed. vs. Houston: Jeff Suppan vs. Taylor Buchholz 12:10 p.m. FSNM/ESPN

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

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