Game Observations– Sat. 7/1 – Royals 8-7 (11)

On Saturday evening, the St. Louis Cardinals lost the second game and the three-game weekend series against the Kansas City Royals, 8-7. The Cardinals are 1-5 on their current home stand and 1-10 in their last 11. Their 43-36 record kept them tied with the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central lead.

Coming after a nice outing against Detroit, Sidney Ponson reverted to his ineffective recent self. He walked five hitters to go along with seven hits and six runs in 2-2/3 innings. Josh Hancock pitched as well as Ponson was bad, going 4-1/3 with just one baserunner. However, Randy Flores walked three, including the lead run in the eighth after the offense had come back to tie the game. Overall, the Cards hitters walked the same number of Royals, ten, as hits given up.

The hitters showed resiliency, coming back from a 6-0 deficit, and a 7-6 mark. They managed 15 hits, including four home runs. However, they fell apart at the end. First, they loaded the bases in the tenth with no out and didn't score. They had the tying run in scoring position with one out in the 11th, but never put the ball in play the rest of the way.

One year ago today
On July 1, 2005, Chris Carpenter led the Cardinals to a 6-0 shutout over the Colorado Rockies. He allowed five hits while walking two and fanning nine. Albert Pujols belted a solo home run for his 13th game-winning RBI of the 2005 season. Albert finished 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI. Scott Rolen and Yadier Molina each had a pair of hits. The Cards increased their NL Central lead to 9-1/2 games.

So's older Sunday
On Sunday, So Taguchi turns 37. Lately, he has been looking his age in the field.

The match-up
Sidney Ponson vs. Mark Redman.

The line-up
Eckstein, Spiezio (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Luna, Molina, Taguchi (CF) and Ponson.
Back in: Spiezio.
Out: Edmonds.
Taguchi and Molina swapped places in the order.

On to the game…

Royals first – Everyone hits, Sid misses
DeJesus singled leading off and scored on a Grudzielanek double. Doug Mientkiewicz walked and after both runners moved up on a Sanders fly out. Both runners came in when Mark Teahen doubled. Angel Berroa and Paul Bako walked to fill the bases. Joey Gathright brought the fourth run home on a ground out before the pitcher made the final out. Royals 4-0.

Cards first – Variety pack
Strike out, line out and fly out.

Royals second – One more
DeJesus singled again, this time up the middle, just missing Ponson. DeJesus moved to third on a ground out. He scored on a single by Mientkiewicz. Sanders walked. Josh Hancock is warming up in the pen. Teahen reached on a fielding error by Pujols to load the bases. Berroa fanned and Bako flied out. Royals 5-0.

Cards second – First runner
Luna singled with two out.

Royals third – Breakout
Luna erred on a sharply hit ball by Gathright, who then took second on a sacrifice by the pitcher. Gathright tried to score on a single by DeJesus, but Spiezio's relay home nailed the runner quite easily. DeJesus scored on a double into the right field corner by Grudzielanek. Three innings and three runs scored by DeJesus. Mientkiewicz walked, which ended Ponson's day. La Russa drew a cheer when he animatedly signaled for a pitching change about two steps out of the dugout. Hello, Josh Hancock. He retired Sanders to end the inning. Royals 6-0.

Cards third – Groundout Day
Ground out, strike out, ground out.

Royals fourth – Perfecto
Three hitters, three outs. Happened so rarely lately.

Cards fourth – On the board
Pujols singled after Spiezio had whiffed. Rolen then slammed a home run to the back of the pen in left. Pujols also scored. Royals 6-2.

Royals fifth – Hancock's second
Redman walked with one out.

Cards fifth – Life shown
Yadier Molina led off the frame with a home run onto the grass berm in center. So doubled into the right field corner next. Spiezio's two out single scored Taguchi. A balk put Spiezio at second. Spiezio scored on a single to left by Pujols. He made a nice slide to avoid the tag. Albert took second on the throw home before Rolen flied out. Royals 6-5.

Royals sixth – Hold ‘em
Hancock fanned Teahen on a curve to end the 1-2-3 inning.

Cards sixth – 60 feet from tie
Encarnacion hit one off his hands for an opposite-field single to left to greet reliever Elmer Dessens. He moved up on Luna and Molina ground outs. A passed ball enabled Juan to take third. But, So stranded him.

Royals seventh – Hancocking
Hancock finished another 1-2-3 inning.

Cards seventh – Fit and tied
Spiezio hit a line drive home run to right with two down. Pujols doubled into the right-center gap. Rolen was issued an intentional walk, but they were stranded by Encarnacion. Tie 6-6.

Royals eighth – Walking to Memphis?
Adam Wainwright and Aaron Miles came in. DeJesus singled with one out. On a double by Grudz, DeJesus tried to score from first. Eckstein fired So's relay home. DeJesus would have been out by several steps, except he leapt into the air, knocking off Molina's helmet and mask with his foot. Molina tagged him the second time as he tried to come back to touch the plate. Randy Flores came on to pitch and walked Mientkiewicz on four pitches as Brad Thompson warmed up. He also walked Sanders to load the bases. Teahen took a free pass to force in the lead run. Apparently, La Russa had so little confidence in Thompson that he had left Flores in to walk three straight hitters. Once the damage was done, Thompson did come in to get the third out. Royals 7-6.

Cards eighth – Gulp
Former Cub Todd Wellemeyer pitched. Molina singled to left with one out. But, Miles grounded into an easy 4-6-3 on the first pitch he saw.

Royals ninth – Tenth walk
Brad stayed on and walked Matt Stairs with two out. He was stranded.

Cards ninth – Keeping it alive
Closer Ambiorix Burgos pitched. Jim Edmonds pinch hit and put a home run ball onto the berm. Pujols fanned swinging. Rolen walked. But, Encarnacion ended another rally. Tie 7-7.

Royals tenth – Izzy time
Jason Isringhausen pitched and ended a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout of Sanders. But, it took Izzy 19 pitches to do it.

Cards tenth – Bases loaded and no out yield nada
Former Red Luke Hudson came on to pitch. Luna was walked leading off. On a hit-and-run play, Molina singled to left to put runners on the corners with none out. Timo Perez pinch ran for Molina. Not sure why La Russa took Molina out of the game at this point. So hit a ball off Hudson to load the bases on a ball that Berroa bobbled. Miles hacked at the first pitch. Luna was easily thrown out at the plate, but no one was covering first base, so there was no double play. Eckstein and the Cards attempted a two-strike suicide squeeze and fouled out. Edmonds flied out to center to blow the perfect chance.

Royals eleventh – Over now?
Izzy stayed on. Teahen homered to right on a 3-2 count leading off. Royals 8-7.

Cards eleventh – In flames
Pujols singled off Hudson to start the inning. Rolen forced him out at second. The first pitch to pinch hitter John Rodriguez got away from the catcher. The passed ball put Rolen in scoring position. J-Rod and Luna both fanned looking to end the game.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Sunday vs. Royals: Jason Marquis vs. Mike Wood 1:15 p.m. WB11
Monday @ Braves: Anthony Reyes vs. John Smoltz 6:05 p.m. FSNM/ESPN
Tuesday @ Braves: Chris Carpenter vs. Lance Cormier 6:05 p.m. FSNM
Wednesday @ Braves: Jeff Suppan vs. Chuck James 6:35 p.m. FSNM
Thurs. @ Houston: Sidney Ponson vs. Taylor Buchholz 7:05 p.m. FSNM/ESPN
Friday @ Houston: Jason Marquis vs. Wandy Rodriguez 7:05 p.m. FSNM

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

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