Game Observations– Sat. 6/24– Tigers 7-6 (10)

The St. Louis Cardinals lost their fifth in a row on the roadtrip, this time to the Detroit Tigers by a 7-6 mark in ten innings on Saturday night. The Cardinals' record is now 42-31 as their NL Central lead remains at three games over Cincinnati. The streaking Tigers have now won 13 of their last 16 games.

Jeff Suppan struggled all evening, yet made it five innings with the lead, allowing nine hits, three walks but only three runs scored. His defense bailed him out time and time again with three double plays and a number of sharp individual efforts. Jason Isringhausen blew his fifth save of the season, allowing a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Johnson took the loss in the tenth.

Both David Eckstein and Scott Spiezio had two hits and a walk and scored twice. Scott Rolen had a single and a pair of sacrifice flies. Aaron Miles singled, doubled and plated one.

One year ago today
On June 24, 2005, the Cardinals rode five home runs to an 8-1 win over Pittsburgh. Jim Edmonds and So Taguchi each had two-home run performances. Jeff Suppan carried a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning and then allowed a run on three hits before the bullpen finished up. Soup picked up his fifth straight home win and won back-to-back starts for the first time in 2005.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan vs. Kenny Rogers. The latter is going for his 11th win of the season, best in the American League and has 200 career victories.

The line-up
Eckstein, Spiezio (DH), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Taguchi (CF), Luna (LF), Molina and Miles.
The only change in the field is Hector Luna for John Rodriguez in left. It is Hector's 11th start out there so far this season. Juan Encarnacion and So Taguchi each slid up one spot. Jim Edmonds is not recovered from his concussion enough to play.

On to the game…

Cards first – Out on top
Rogers made a diving, rolling stop and came to his knees to throw out David Eckstein at first. Rogers has four Gold Gloves in his career. Spiezio drew a walk after going 0-2, causing Rogers to have words with the home plate umpire. Pujols rocketed a single off Placido Polanco's glove to put runners on the corners. Pujols was seen chatting again with the first baseman, Chris Shelton, and likely said more to him than he's said to reporters all season long. Rogers made a wild pickoff throw to first, which allowed Spiezio to score and Pujols to take third. That was important, as Rolen's fly to center was deep enough to score Albert. Cards 2-0.

Tigers first – Soup's cold
Curtis Granderson singled leading off. Polanco then walked on four straight. Suppan fanned Marcus Thames. The Tigers executed a double steal on a 2-2 pitch before Magglio Ordonez' ground out scored Granderson. Carlos Guillen walked to put runners on the corners. Chris Shelton's RBI single put runners right back at first and third. Suppan's 37th pitch of the inning ended it on a 6-4 force out. Tie 2-2.

Cards second – HBP not enough
After a pair of strikeouts, Molina was hit on the foot with a pitch. Miles forced him at second to end it.

Tigers second – Defense backs Suppan
Vance Wilson shot the first pitch of the inning over the wall in left center for a ground rule double. Brandon Inge hit a one-hopper to Pujols, who threw to Rolen and got Wilson out in the rundown. Inge had to stay at first. Rolen made a nice play coming in to get the second out on the speedy Granderson. Polanco walked. Eckstein made a nice stop far to his left and a long throw to just beat Marcus Thames to first for the final out. Suppan's pitch count is at 55. The pen had better get ready!

Cards third – Lead retaken
Eckstein and Spiezio singled leading off. A wild pitch to Pujols put both in scoring position. As a result, they walked him intentionally on a 2-2 count! Rolen hit another sac fly as Spiezio took third. Pujols had to sit tight until Encarnacion's sac fly to left enabled him to take second. So popped up to end it. Cards 4-2.

Tigers third – "D" still covering Suppan
Ordonez singled sharply to right on Suppan's first pitch of the inning. Guillen singled to left on the next one. Three innings and three more leadoff batters on base. As Shelton grounded to second, the Cards turned a double play, but Eckstein was rolled over by Guillen's hard slide. Guillen had better get ready when the Tigers take the field. Barry Weinberg came out to check on Eckstein, who had a mild concussion a little over a week ago. Eck stayed in the game. Craig Shelton flied out to the warning track in left for the third out.

Cards fourth – No gamble
Rogers retired the Cards' bottom three for his first 1-2-3 frame of the night.

Tigers fourth – More trouble
Inge doubled past third with one out. He was awarded second on fan interference, but would have ended up there, anyway. Granderson's single to right scored the run. Polanco's 6-4-3 stopped the damage. Cards 4-3.

Cards fifth – One more run
Eckstein led off with a ground rule double to left center. Spiezio laid down an excellent bunt down the third base line. His efforts paid off when his sacrifice turned into an infield single. Eckstein scored on a Pujols infield ground out. With first base open and one out, Rolen took an intentional walk before So ended another rally with another ground out. Cards 5-3.

Tigers fifth – Soup owes his fielders again
Ordonez jammed a single to right with one out. Guillen then shot a single past Pujols, who was holding the runner on. Dave Duncan came out to chat to give Adam Wainwright time to heat up in the bullpen. Shelton again grounded into a 4-6-3 to end another threat.

Cards sixth – Insurance?
Leading off, Luna reached on a comebacker that fell out of Rogers' glove. It was appropriately scored an infield single. Molina managed a two-out sacrifice bunt. Miles stroked a double down the third base line. That scored the run and was Rogers' last offering of the night. Roman Colon is the new pitcher. Cards 6-3.

Tigers sixth – One run closer
Wainwright took over on the mound. Vance Wilson homered to left with one out. A diving Rolen and Pujols teamed up on a nice play for the second out before Granderson singled up the middle. Polanco's force out ended it. Cards 6-4.

Cards seventh – No fire
Shelton made a diving stop to rob Pujols of a sure single. Rolen plopped a single into center, but that was it.

Tigers seventh – No 1-2-3
Guillen worked a ten-pitch at-bat before taking a two-out walk. The Cards are still looking for that first 1-2-3 inning on the evening but Wainwright got the third out without incident.

Cards eighth – Three on and out
Luna blasted a ball to Thames in left that he had to leap to catch. The left fielder couldn't get the smile off his face as he recovered from misjudging the shot. Molina followed with a single to left. When Miles did the exact same thing, manager Jim Leyland came out to talk. Eckstein took a walk to load the bases. This time, Leyland brought the hook. Jamie Walker pitched next and retired Spiezio without scoring the runner. Next was Jason Grilli to pitch to Albert Pujols, who flied out to center. Those runs would have been really nice to get.

Tigers eighth – Looper time better this time
Braden Looper was asked to pitch again, perhaps to erase the memory of his lousy appearance Friday night. He did fine, as the first to set down the Tigers in order all evening, with three fly balls.

Cards ninth – So out
So singled to left with two out, but was thrown out trying to steal second base.

Tigers ninth – Bump and a blast
Leading off, Granderson beat out an infield single. With Jason Isringhausen pitching, it is to be expected. At least it wasn't a walk. Polanco took a swinging foul tip strike three. Thames slammed a hanging breaking ball into the seats in left to tie the game. Ordonez doubled into the left field gap. Still only one out. With first base open and one out, Guillen was put on. A fly ball put the winning run on third with two out before Izzy fanned Monroe to send the game into extra innings. Tie 6-6.

Cards tenth – Heat
Fireballer Joel Zumaya took over on the mound, throwing 100 MPH on the gun. No one reached base.

Tigers tenth – Tyler tanks
Well-rested coming in, Izzy pitched a second inning. Or should I say part of one. With two out and the red-hot Granderson coming up, lefty Tyler Johnson took the ball. Tyler walked him and he scored as Polanco's gapper to right center rolled to the wall. Tigers 7-6.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Sunday @ Tigers: Sidney Ponson vs. Jeremy Bonderman 12:05 p.m. WB11
Monday vs. Indians: Jason Marquis vs. Cliff Lee 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Tuesday vs. Indians: Anthony Reyes vs. C.C. Sabathia 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wednesday vs. Indians: Chris Carpenter vs. Jake Westbrook 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Thursday: Off day

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

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