Game Observations – Wed. 6/14 – Pirates 9-7

The St. Louis Cardinals lost in the second of their series in Pittsburgh by a 9-7 score on Wednesday evening at PNC Park. The Cardinals' record is now 38-26 and their NL Central lead dropped back to 1.5 games over Cincinnati.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost the second of their series in Pittsburgh by a 9-7 score on Wednesday evening at PNC Park. The Cardinals' record is now 38-26 and their NL Central lead dropped back to 1.5 games over Cincinnati.

Sidney Ponson started, but was again unimpressive. He allowed six runs in 3-1/3 innings. Brad Thompson followed him and was also bad. He let Ponson's final run in and three more of his own. This took all the air out of a Cardinals offense that had just come back from a 3-1 deficit to take the lead – only temporarily, unfortunately.

Tony La Russa tried to play small ball and it seemed to backfire every time. Two men were caught stealing, a hit and run failed, as did a sacrifice or two and to top it off, a suicide squeeze play turned into a double play.

On the positive side, Scott Rolen and Juan Encarnacion both went 3-for-5. They each doubled and Rolen added a home run. Rolen collected three RBI and scored three times as Juan knocked in two. Hector Luna had three singles, an RBI and a stolen base, but was also doubled up on a bad baserunning play.

One year ago today
On June 14, 2005, Chris Carpenter pitched what is arguably his best game ever. He tossed only the 19th one-hitter in Cardinals history and his 7th career shutout in a 7-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in interleague play at Rogers Centre. Carpenter fanned 10 and walked just one in his 95-pitch gem. Larry Walker (two HR's), Reggie Sanders and Albert Pujols combined for a season-high four home runs in the win. The Cards totalled 15 hits, including three each from Abraham Nunez, Pujols and Walker.

Tuesday leftovers
Chris Carpenter's 13 strikeouts Tuesday night equaled the most strikeouts by a Cardinals pitcher through the seventh inning since Steve Carlton fanned 16 Philadelphia Phillies batters, including 14 through seven innings, in 1970. Matt Morris also had 13 Ks through seven innings in a 2001 start against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The match-up
Sidney Ponson vs. Zach Duke.

The line-up
Eckstein, Taguchi (LF), Rolen, Encarnacion, Edmonds (CF), Luna (1B), Molina, Miles and Ponson.
Back in: Aaron Miles.
Out: Chris Duncan, as Hector Luna slid over to first from second base.
The left-handed hitters were out of the line-up with the exception of Jim Edmonds. Yadier Molina was back in the seven spot after a night at #6. Luna was up to six from #8.

On to the game…

Cards first – Scott and Juan again
With two out, Scott Rolen sliced a one-hop ground rule double that went into the stands along the line in left. Like the night before, Encarnacion plated the run with a single to center. Cards 1-0.

Pirates first – Starting right
Ponson retired his first three batters.

Cards second – Backfire!
Leading off, Luna smoked a ball off the glove of the third baseman, Freddy Sanchez, for a stand up double. Molina sacrificed him to third. Miles was asked to get the run home. But, his suicide squeeze bunt was popped up. That led to an easy inning-ending double play.

Pirates second – Duked out
Jason Bay led off with a sharply-hit single past a diving Eckstein into left. Craig Wilson was hit by a pitch, though he didn't make much of any attempt to get out of the way. Sanchez stroked a single past short to tie the game. With two down and having an excellent chance to escape with the pitcher up, Ponson floated a pitch that Duke laced into right to score two. Bucs 3-1.

Cards third – Failed gamble overcome
Ponson drew a lead off walk. Amazing. On a hit and run, Eckstein missed a low and inside pitch as Ponson chugged into second. Had he attempted to slide, he would have been safe. Instead he was tagged on the back in one of the uglier plays all season. From the "it figures" department, Eckstein singled on the very next pitch. Taguchi then singled to put runners on the corners for Rolen. On a catchable ball to left, Rolen's flare dropped between Bay and Jack Wilson for an RBI. Last inning, the Pirates' broadcasters were bragging up Bay's Gold Glove candidacy. Encarnacion hit a little chopper that went over third base. So scored and Juan aggressively slide into second base just in time. Edmonds hit the ball to the right to score the lead run. Luna singled on the next pitch for the fifth run. Luna just made it into second base on a successful steal, but Molina grounded out. Still, it was a nice quick comeback inning. Cards 5-3.

Pirates third – Back on track
Edmonds made a very nice diving catch on Bay's sinking liner to end a good 1-2-3 inning for Ponson as he retired the top three in the order.

Cards fourth – RISP stranded
Miles led off with a bunt single. Where was that last time? After a couple of failed attempts, Ponson bunted the runner into scoring position, but the top of the order couldn't collect.

Pirates fourth – Back in a fix
Craig Wilson and Freddy Sanchez singled leading off. A shot past Rolen by Jose Castillo scored Wilson and put two more in scoring position. Dave Duncan came out to the mound for a visit, giving Brad Thompson time to start warming up. With one down, Duke just missed a two-run double down the left field line. Another mound conference ensued, but obviously without Duncan. Duke then dropped an RBI single into short center. La Russa has had it with Sir Sid for this night. In came Brad with runners on the corners and one out. Jack Wilson singled to right to score the lead run. Thompson has retired only 11 of his first 27 batters faced this season and has allowed 7 of 13 inherited runners to score in 2006. Why bring him in with runners on base? Bucs 6-5.

Cards fifth – Another gamble fails
Encarnacion continued his hot hitting with a one-out single. Edmonds followed with a walk. Luna fanned as Encarnacion was tagged out trying to steal. Replays showed Juan was apparently safe, for what it is worth.

Pirates fifth – Brad bad
Craig Wilson hit a ground rule double down into the left field corner with one out. Jack Wilson walked. Jose Castillo blasted a ball into the left field seats for a three run home run. Ronny Paulino legged out a swinging bunt when Thompson couldn't pick the ball up cleanly. Nate McLouth singled with two out. Duncan came out to say something like "Please get the third out". Bucs 9-5.

Cards sixth – RISP wasted again
Molina greeted new pitcher Solomon Torres with a double and took third on the first out. Pinch-hitter Timo Perez fanned for the second out and Eckstein grounded out to end it.

Pirates sixth – Hancock on
Sean Casey led off with a single off Josh Hancock. A double play and a strikeout ended the inning.

Cards seventh – Promise unmet
So walked leading off, but a pair of strikeouts contributed to a zero on the board.

Pirates seventh – Flying high
Hancock induced three fly balls.

Cards eighth – Luna blunder
Luna singled leading off but was doubled up trying to get back to first base after Molina popped out to second. Hector was busy watching instead of running at full speed.

Pirates eighth – Johnson works
Tyler Johnson allowed a lead-off single to Jose Bautista. He was then forced out at second. Two more harmless outs ensued.

Cards ninth – Two little, too late
Against Matt Capps, John Rodirguez pinch hit and popped out. So walked with two out and scored on Rolen's eighth home run of the season. Closer Mike Gonzalez was brought in and retired Encarnacion for the final out. Bucs 9-7.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Thurs. @ Pittsburgh: Mark Mulder vs. Victor Santos 11:35 a.m. FSNM
Friday vs. Rockies: Jason Marquis vs. Aaron Cook 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Saturday vs. Rockies: Jeff Suppan vs. Jeff Francis 6;15 p.m. FSNM
Sunday vs. Rockies: Chris Carpenter vs. Josh Fogg 1:15 p.m. WB11

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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