Game Observations – Thur. 6/15 – Cards 6-5

The St. Louis Cardinals won the rubber match of their series in Pittsburgh by a 6-5 score on Thursday afternoon at PNC Park. The Cardinals' record is now 39-26 and their NL Central lead grew to 2.5 games over Cincinnati.

The St. Louis Cardinals won the rubber match of their series in Pittsburgh by a 6-5 score on Thursday afternoon at PNC Park. The Cardinals' record is now 39-26 and their NL Central lead grew to 2.5 games over Cincinnati.

Mark Mulder held on by a thread for five innings, allowing two walks and nine hits, including two home runs. He was charged with four runs and left the game with a slim lead of two runs, which the bullpen shaved to one. Jason Isringhausen followed Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright (two innings), earning his 22nd save in the process.

Chris Duncan had a single, double and triple. Every starter except Mulder had at least one hit. So Taguchi had a key two-run single in a game in which the lead changed hands four times. At this point, it is quite obvious that the difference between the first place team in the division and the last place one is not nearly as great as the 14-game gap in the standings reflect.

One year ago today
On June 15, 2005, the Cardinals lost their first interleague series in nearly two years, losing 5-2 at Toronto. The Jays' starter Ted Lilly held the Redbirds scoreless for seven innings. John Mabry had three of the nine Cardinals hits, all singles. The bullpen worked three scoreless innings following loser Jason Marquis, who went five innings. Even with the 1-2 series, the Redbirds were 41-24, 6.5 games in the NL Central lead.

Odd weekend coming
Devoted Cardinals fans already know the Colorado Rockies are coming into Busch this weekend. But, what you may not have noticed was that these two teams are the only ones not participating in interleague play Friday through Sunday. Such is life in a world where one league has 16 teams and the other only 14.

Is he still a bum?
Juan Encarnacion has lifted his batting average 48 points (.221 to .269) since May 19, batting at a .344 clip (32-for-93) in his past 23 games with nine doubles, two triples, three home runs and 20 RBI. He is batting .375 with runners in scoring position (12-for-32) over this stretch and has struck out just 13 times. Encarnacion is tied for second on the team in home runs with eight and third in extra base hits at 23.

The match-up
Mark Mulder faced Victor Santos.

The line-up
Eckstein, Taguchi (LF), Rolen, Edmonds (CF), Encarnacion, Luna (2B), Duncan (1B), Bennett and Mulder.
Back in: Chris Duncan and Gary Bennett. I sure hope the former can learn to lay off the low and away breaking balls.
Out: Aaron Miles and Yadier Molina.
Edmonds and Encarnacion swapped between #4 and #5 with the righthander pitching for the Bucs. Hector Luna stayed in the lineup again, but moved back to second base as Chris Duncan took first. Clearly, La Russa wants to win the series and is not resting any key offensive cogs.

On to the game…

Cards first – Two out action
Rolen became the first baserunner when he was hit by a pitch with two outs and two strikes against him. Edmonds shot a single into right to put runners on the corner. Encarnacion came though with another first-inning RBI single for the third game in a row. Luna took a walk to load the bases. Duncan fanned in three straight pitches. Cards 1-0.

Pirates first – Ahead to behind in a flash
Leading off, Jose Bautista represented Mulder's 15th home run allowed this season. Jack Wilson walked in four pitches. After two strikeouts, Joe Randa singled. Craig Wilson then singled up the middle to break the tie. Bucs 2-1.

Cards second – Promise lost
Gary Bennett led off with a single. Mulder sacrificed him to second. Eckstein followed with a one-out safety to put runners on the corners, as Jack Wilson saved a run when he flagged down the ball. It hurt doubly when So grounded into an inning-killing double play.

Pirates second – Mulder's struggles continue
That four straight balls to the .203 average, #8 hitting catcher is not a good start may be the understatement of the day. Fortunately, Santos was unable to bunt Humberto Cota over. In fact, Bennett turned it into a nice 2-6-4. But, the problems restarted as Bautista and Jack Wilson singled. Mulder did fan Casey looking to escape, but it was another ugly frame.

Cards third – In order
The 3-4-5 boys went down 1-2-3.

Pirates third – Better
Jason Bay started off with a single through Mulder's legs. Randa grounded into a double play. Maybe Mulder can get out of an inning without much pain. A Craig Wilson strikeout was a nice ending.

Cards fourth – Back on top
With one out, Duncan hit a ball high off the ball off the wall in center for his first career triple. Bennett and Mulder walked to load the bases. A big mound pow-wow ensued. Unfortunately, Eckstein's looper to short was caught for the second out. But, So came through with a little hit to short right that scored two. Cards 3-2.

Pirates fourth – Lead blown again
Mulder couldn't hold the lead for five minutes as Castillo homered. It went an estimated 455 feet in case you thought it might have been a cheap shot. Cota singled and moved up as Santos sacrificed him over. Bautista doubled off the wall in right to drive one in. Rolen made a nice stop to retire Jack Wilson. A grounder to first ended the bleeding – for this inning. Bucs 4-3.

Cards fifth – See saw
Encarnacion singled to third base with one out. The Pirates' trainer came to the mound to check out Santos' hand. Luna took a walk and that ended Santos' day, two outs short of qualifying for a win, albeit a shaky one. Former starter Ryan Vogelsong took over and Duncan shot another ball off the right field wall to score Juan. Luna scored on a Bennett ground out as Duncan took third. Adam Wainwright began to warm up, but Mulder was allowed to hit. He fanned. Cards 5-4.

Pirates fifth – Change of heart?
Mulder was kept in to try to get his last inning needed to collect a win. A ground out between two strikeouts represented Mulder's best inning yet.

Cards sixth – Two run lead
Eckstein legged out a single to deep second base. So sacrificed him over and Rolen brought him home with a bloop single to short right. Rolen stole third base or at least that is what La Russa thought. Instead, it was the second out before Edmonds grounded out. Cards 6-4.

Pirates sixth – Long ball
With Mulder in line for a win, Wainwright came in to pitch. With two down, pinch-hitter Jeromy Burnitz took him out to right. Cards 6-5.

Cards seventh – Gambling
Matt Capps pitched. With two out, Duncan singled to right center. Bautista mishandled the ball and Duncan hustled into second base. With first base open, Bennett was given a free pass to bring up Wainwright. Braden Looper is throwing in the bullpen, but no pinch-hitter was called upon. Strange. Wainwright grounded out.

Pirates seventh – WW dodges major mess
Wainwright was asked to pitch his second inning. Jack Wilson singled. Randa drew a two-out walk after a couple of Edmonds catches, one coming in and one going out. Craig Wilson walked as strike three got away. Fortunately, the ball hit the umpire, keeping it close enough that the bases remained loaded. Edmonds made his third catch of the inning as Castillo flied out.

Cards eighth – No insurance yet
Taguchi doubled past Randa into the left field corner with one down. Edmonds was walked intentionally with two down. Both were stranded.

Pirates eighth – Looper ok
Braden Looper retired his three in order. Note: All three hitters were righties.

Cards ninth – Last threat missed
Closer Mike Gonzalez came in. Luna singled, but Aaron Miles, pinch-hitting, did not execute a successful sacrifice. Scott Spiezio singled up the middle with two out to put two on, but that was it.

Pirates ninth – Izzy time
Against Jason Isringhausen, Sean Casey walked, but he was actually the second hitter of the inning. But, what was different this time was that Izzy induced a double play ball from the cleanup hitter Bay. Game and series won.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
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
Monday: Off day
Tuesday @ White Sox: Sidney Ponson vs. Javier Vazquez 7:05 p.m. FSNM
Wednesday @ White Sox: Mark Mulder vs. Mark Buehrle 7:05 p.m. FSNM
Thursday @ White Sox: Jason Marquis vs. Freddy Garcia 7:05 p.m. FSNM

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories