Game Observations – Tue. 5/30 – Astros 6-3

The St. Louis Cardinals lost the second of the three-game series against the Houston Astros by a 6-3 score on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. Josh Hancock cratered an excellent start by Anthony Reyes and took the loss. The Cards' record fell to 33-19, as they are stuck in a pattern of a win then a loss over the last six games.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost the second of the three-game series against the Houston Astros by a 6-3 score on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. Josh Hancock cratered an excellent start by Anthony Reyes and took the loss. The Cards' record fell to 33-19, as they are stuck in a pattern of a win then a loss over the last six games.

Top prospect Anthony Reyes pitched very well, striking out one per inning, seven total. Until the seventh, Reyes had allowed just one run on three hits, but in that frame, the game fell apart. Josh Hancock let two inherited runners from Reyes score and allowed three more of his own, too. The book on Reyes closed with three runs on five hits and just one walk. Braden Looper tacked on two perfect innings.

Scott Rolen and Juan Encarnacion led the offense with back-to-back home runs in the fourth. In fact, Rolen had three extra-base hits, adding two doubles. Hector Luna singled and doubled. On the other side, So Taguchi and Aaron Miles combined for an 0-for-8 night with five strikeouts.

One year ago today
Talk about weird. On May 30, 2005, with a two-out, three-run home run in the seventh inning, Albert Pujols led the Cardinals and Jason Marquis to a 5-4 win over the Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals wild-pitched home a pair of Rockies runs and allowed another to score on a throwing error. Jason Isringhausen converted his 20th straight save opportunity to secure the win.

The match-up
With his second recent call-up, Anthony Reyes makes his second start of the season and third of his brief major league career. He faces Andy Pettitte, who put together a dominant second half of 2005 (MLB-best 1.69 ERA) before struggling in the early going here in 2006. But, today's rumor that Roger Clemens is close to re-signing with the Astros is the big news regarding starting pitching on a day that Chris Carpenter was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Cardinals, retroactive to the 20th, the last day he pitched in a game.

The line-up
Eckstein, Luna (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Taguchi (CF), Molina, Miles and Reyes.
Hector Luna gets the start in left, his fifth appearance out there this season as Yadier Molina swaps places with Monday's starter behind the plate, Gary Bennett. Scott Spiezio was ill and not at the ballpark.

On to the game…

Astros first – Willy's wheels
Lead-off man Willy Taveras went down and golfed a double into the right field corner leading off. With one down, Lance Berkman collected the RBI with a single to center. Morgan Ensberg fanned and a force play ended it without further damage. Astros 1-0.

Cards first – Not deep enough
Pujols flied out to deep center for the third out.

Astros second – Smooth
A strikeout of Chris Burke was followed by two more quick outs for Reyes.

Cards second – Tied up
Rolen struck a stand-up double into the left field corner to start the inning. Encarnacion moved the runner to third before So fanned. Yadier Molina hit a call comparable to Rolen's, but his double was into the right field corner and collected the RBI. Miles whiffed for the third out. Tie 1-1.

Astros third – In order
Craig Biggio fanned to end a 1-2-3 inning.

Cards third – Not this time, Albert
Eckstein ground into a double play following a Reyes single to center. It was the latter's first-ever MLB hit. Luna hustled out a bunt to the third base side, as catcher Brad Ausmus' throw was too late. Pujols' grounder to third was the final out.

Astros fourth – 4K's
Preston Wilson drew a two-out walk. Burke was the fourth strikeout victim in four innings for Reyes.

Cards fourth – Albert is not alone here
Leading off again, Rolen hit his sixth home run of the season into the seats in left. It is Rolen's second extra-base hit of the night. Juan Encarnacion followed with a line drive home run, also to left. Cards 3-1.

Astros fifth – Reyes on pace
Pettitte struck out to end the inning, keeping Reyes on a one-per-inning strikeout pace.

Cards fifth – Two out rally short
Luna stroked a two-out double to left center. With first base open, Astros manager Phil Garner ordered an intentional walk to Pujols. Pettitte's body language suggested he did not agree. Having retired Pujols 15 of their 17 career match-ups to date puts Pettitte on solid ground. Rolen flied out to make the manager look smart.

Astros sixth – Pitching with poise
Biggio doubled into the left field corner with one out. A Berkman fly ball to right enabled Biggio to take third. True to form, Reyes' sixth strikeout ended the threat as Morgan Ensberg swung and missed strike three.

Cards sixth – Quiet
Three up and three down.

Astros seventh – Hancock wastes Reyes' hard work
Preston Wilson fanned. Another one-out double into the left field corner occurred. This one was off the bat of Chris Burke. As Randy Flores and Josh Hancock began to throw, Dave Duncan came out to stall – er discuss matters with Reyes. Brad Ausmus sharply singled past Rolen to put runners on the corners. That was it for Reyes as Hancock received the call for the first time since last Friday. Pinch-hitter Mike Lamb singled one run home. Former Cardinal Orlando Palmeiro pinch hit for Pettitte. He singled to center as Ausmus scored. Supposed defensive specialist So Taguchi's throw was wide of third, getting away from Rolen, enabling Lamb to score, too. So took the error. Braden Looper joined Flores throwing in the pen. La Russa didn't call for a change and paid for it as Craig Biggio's two-run homer to left turned Busch into a tomb. Astros 6-3.

Cards seventh – No spring in the bats
Former Cardinals pitcher Russ Springer took over for Houston. Rodriguez hit for Hancock, striking out.

Astros eighth – Looper just fine
Reliever Braden Looper took over and retired his three men quietly.

Cards eighth – Confirming the loss
Dan Wheeler pitched. Pujols singled with one out. Rolen hit his third extra base hit of the night. His double put two in scoring position. Ensberg threw home on Encarnacion's grounder, retiring Pujols at the plate. So fanned and that was that.

Astros ninth – Looper x 2
Brad Lidge began to warm up in the pen as Looper ended his second perfect inning.

Cards ninth – Lights out
Lidge retired his three men, including striking out pinch hitter Larry Bigbie to end the game. A disappointing loss for the Cardinals.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Wed. vs. Houston: Jeff Suppan vs. Taylor Buchholz 12:10 p.m. FSNM/ESPN
Thursday: Off day
Friday vs. Cubs: Sidney Ponson vs. Sean Marshall 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Saturday vs. Cubs: Mark Mulder vs. Kerry Wood 3:05 p.m. Big Fox
Sunday vs. Cubs: Jason Marquis vs. Greg Maddux 1:15 p.m. WB11

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

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