Game Observations – Wed. 6/28 – Cards 5-4

On Wednesday evening, the St. Louis Cardinals salvaged the final game of the three-game home series against the Cleveland Indians, winning 5-4, breaking an eight-game losing skid. It was a game the Cardinals gave away in the eighth, but the Tribe gave it right back in the ninth. The Cardinals' record is now 43-34 as their NL Central lead remained at 1-1/2 games over Cincinnati.

The Cardinals' ace, Chris Carpenter, did everything he could to try to stop his team's eight-game losing streak by going seven innings, allowing just five hits and one run. He struck out four and walked one. But, it took four members of the bullpen three runs to get three outs in the eighth, turning his win into a disheartening no-decision. They also had help from a shaky Cardinals defense. Jason Isringhausen was charged with a blown save.

Yet, the Cardinals and Izzy came back to win, not as much because of the offense as the Tribe defense making two costly errors in the bottom of the ninth, including a throwing miscue that ended the game – a walk off error. In fact, the batters managed just seven hits all evening. Scott Rolen had a single and a solo home run. Aaron Miles plated the tying run with a clutch double.

One year ago today
On June 28, 2005, all the scoring occurred in the first inning, as the Cardinals defeated the Reds 2-1. Reggie Sanders' two-run home run provided the margin of victory. Mark Mulder allowed a run on three hits in the top of the inning, but then settled down to earn his ninth win of the 2005 campaign. Jason Isringhausen collected his 22nd save. Albert Pujols went 2-for-3 with half of the Cards safeties as the Reds outhit them, 8-4.

Does the losing streak mean the season is lost?
From our friend Billy Ball. comes a reminder about how little losing stretches matter, even in September: "The 2000 World Champion Yankees lost 15 of their final 18 games, including six in a row."

The losses
The Cardinals are assured of their losingest month since July, 1994, when they went 8-20, which also means it is Tony La Russa's worst month as Cardinals manager. This also ended their streak of 14 consecutive winning months which covered all of 2004 and 2005.

Just a reminder
The Indians played this series with only one of their starting outfield, Grady Sizemore. Both Casey Blake and Jason Michaels are on the 15-day disabled list.

The match-up
Chris Carpenter vs. Jake Westbrook.

The line-up
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Rodriguez, Molina, Miles and Carpenter.
Back in: Jim Edmonds, Aaron Miles.
Out: So Taguchi (hamstring), Hector Luna.
Struggling Jim Edmonds was put into the second spot for only the second time this season. With the return of Aaron Miles to the line-up, Yadier Molina moved up to #7.

On to the game…

Indians first – 1-2-3
Good start as Carpenter retired his three hitters in order.

Cards first – AP Ks
Pujols fanned swinging to end a perfect inning, same as Jhonny Peralta did in the top of the inning.

Indians second – A hit
Ben Broussard singled with one down. The first baserunner of the night was stranded.

Cards second – And a hit for the good guys
Rolen started as Pujols ended the previous frame, whiffing swinging. Rodriguez singled up the middle with two out, but Molina left him there.

Indians third – Carp in trouble
Westbrook singled to right with one down. Sizemore followed with a single, too. With two out, Carpenter walked Jhonny Peralta on a 3-2 breaking ball to load the bases. Victor Martinez fanned swinging as Carp fanned the side, but he also threw 31 pitches in the inning and 55 overall so far. Get the pen ready in the sixth!

Cards third – In order again
Westbrook quickly cut through the #8, 9 and 1 hitters.

Indians fourth – Much better
Carpenter had an eight-pitch inning this time.

Cards fourth – Edmonds errs, still score two
Edmonds led off with a single. Rolen singled to left with one out. A passed ball allowed both runners to move up, but Edmonds overran third base and was caught trying to dive back in. An ugly mistake. Encarnacion singled up the middle, allowing Rolen to score, but it would have been two runs. On the play, Sizemore made an ill-advised throw toward home, which made it easy for Juan to take second. Rodriguez walked. Molina singled to center for the second RBI. Cards 2-0.

Indians fifth – Gave one right back
Ricky Gutierrez singled and was sacrificed to second. He came home on a Sizemore single to center. Ronnie Belliard hit what looked to be an inning-ending double play. However, Eckstein's relay was weak and slowed Miles down on the turn. Only the lead runner was retired. But, the third out was soon secured. But, Carp is up to 83 pitches. Cards 2-1.

Cards fifth – 1-2-3
Two ground outs and a line out made for another fast inning for Westbrook, who has thrown 72 pitches on the night.

Indians sixth – Ouch!
Eckstein took a one-hopper off his chest, but hung with it to just get the third out.

Cards sixth – Rolen rides one out
Pujols grounded out and disgustedly tossed his bat away. Too bad he is showing such frustration. Rolen then homered onto the edge of the grass berm in center. It was the first Cardinals home run in five games and just the second in their last seven. Cards 3-1.

Indians seventh – Carp hurt?
With two down, Westbrook was pinch-hit for by .167-hitting Ramon Vazquez. Why bother? But, before throwing his 98th pitch, Carpenter signaled for help. Trainer Barry Weinberg came out to check Carpenter's pitching hand as did Tony La Russa and the entire infield. The pessimist would worry about a recurrence of Carpenter's mysterious 2004 nerve ailment in that same arm. Rodriguez made a late break on Vazquez' fly ball, but just caught it off his shoe tops to end the inning.

Cards seventh – Timo time
Rafael Betancourt pitched. Todd Hollandsworth made a nice diving catch in left to rob Molina of a double. Timo Perez hit for Carpenter and ended the inning 6-3.

Indians eighth – Bullpen-go-round, defense fail
Randy Flores took over on the mound and So Taguchi joined him in left field as a defensive replacement. That will turn out to be big shortly. Sizemore reached again via a single to left. Since he didn't get the lefty, Flores was pulled for Braden Looper. Encarnacion made a diving attempt on a ball by Belliard. When the play was done, the Tribe had two in scoring position with no one out. After a strikeout of Peralta and with the switch-hitter Martinez next and a lefty after him, La Russa went to Tyler Johnson. Izzy started to warm up. Molina and the ump were both struck by a Johnson offering that fooled the catcher. Fortunately, the ball didn't roll far enough away for the runners to score. Martinez hit a high chopper off the plate. The run scored as Johnson had to eat the ball. Former Cardinal and lefty killer Eduardo Perez was announced to hit with one out and runners on the corners. When La Russa countered with Izzy, Perez was lifted for Travis Hafner. The Cards got a break when Martinez didn't move up on a pitch that eluded Molina. It didn't matter as Izzy walked Hafner to load the bases. The first batter faced by all four relievers this inning reached base. Hollandsworth hit a fly to deep short or short left. Either Taguchi or Eckstein could have or should have caught the ball, but it dropped next to So's glove. If So had thrown to third, he would have gotten an out, but his throw dribbled into the center of the infield as the tying run scored. Aaron Boone's sacrifice fly plated the lead run. The boos were louder as Dan pointed out that this kind of baseball hasn't been seen in St. Louis for a long time. Al countered with a view that the Cardinals can't get any breaks. I'm with Dan. Indians 4-3.

Cards eighth – RISP wasted
David Eckstein walked against reliever Fausto Carmona leading off. Edmonds fanned swinging. Pujols walked. Rolen flied out, leaving the inning to Juan Encarnacion, who promptly hit into a force out at third. La Russa was shown venting his frustration at the home plate umpire Brian Gorman multiple times during the inning and headed onto the field after the third out. Tony wasn't ejected, though.

Indians ninth – More Izzy
Izzy was asked to avoid any more damage. Sizemore singled for the fourth time on the evening and stole second base. Belliard walked with one out, but a double play grounder ended the inning.

Cards ninth – Indians give it back with two errors
Closer Bob Wickman pitched. Catcher Kelly Shoppach, who entered the game in the last inning, dropped a pop fly in front of the plate. So Taguchi, who hit the ball, ended up at second. Molina sacrificed him over to third. Miles slapped an RBI double to right center to tie the game. Scott Spiezio hit for Izzy with one out and the winning run at second base. He grounded out with Miles taking third. Eckstein grounded to short, but Peralta's errant one hopper to first eluded the catcher playing first base, Martinez. Fans tossed dozens of seat cushions into the air and onto the field in frustration, relief or both. Cards 5-4.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Thursday: Off day
Friday vs. Royals: Jeff Suppan vs. Brandon Duckworth 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Saturday vs. Royals: Sidney Ponson vs. Mark Redman 6:15 p.m. WB11
Sunday vs. Royals: Jason Marquis vs. Mike Wood 1:15 p.m. WB11

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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