Game Observations – Mon. 7/3 – Braves 6-3

On Monday evening, the St. Louis Cardinals lost the first of their three-game series against the almost-last place Atlanta Braves by 6-3 score. Their 44-37 record kept them one game ahead of also losing Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.

Anthony Reyes had his poorest outing as a major leaguer, allowing five runs on six hits and three walks in five innings. Four of the runs came as a result of three home runs served up in the third inning. It is unclear whether a beaning of Jeff Francoeur in the second inning contributed.

Albert Pujols doubled and hit a solo home run. David Eckstein singled and doubled. Aaron Miles plated two. Jim Edmonds had a pair of singles, representing his first multi-hit game since June 20.

One year ago today
On July 3, 2005, the Cardinals scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to split the series with Colorado in a 5-4 win. Abraham Nunez hit a walk-off single. The 3-4-5 spots in the lineup went 6-for-10 as Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Larry Walker had two hits each. Mark Mulder did not get a decision in his start, allowing four runs in seven innings. The combined bullpen relief of Al Reyes, Julian Tavarez and Ray King shut down the Rockies' offense the final three innings. Do you miss the three of them?

The match-up
Anthony Reyes vs. John Smoltz. The Braves starter has a career 9-11 record against St. Louis, which is the only team against which he does not have a winning record.

The line-up
Eckstein, Duncan (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Molina, Miles and Reyes.
Back in: Chris Duncan and Juan Encarnacion.
Out: John Rodriguez and Scott Spiezio.
As expected, the struggling Brad Thompson was sent to Memphis to make room for Duncan's return. To complete the batch of transactions, on Sunday, Timo Perez was cut in favor of reliever Josh Kinney.

On to the game…

Cards first – Quick RISP
Pujols doubled with two out, but Rolen couldn't get him home.

Braves first – Whew!
Marcus Giles was hit by a pitch. With one out, Wilson Betemit singled to put runners on the corners. La Russa made the decision to give Andruw Jones an intentional walk to load the bases. Catcher Brian McCann then hit into a perfect, inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Cards second – Miles mashes
Edmonds led off with a single past second base. Encarnacion followed with a single to short right. Molina whiffed instead of moving the runners over. Miles shot a first pitch gapper to left center to score two. Cards 2-0.

Braves second – Double ouch!
Reyes plunked his second batter of the night, as Jeff Francoeur was hit on the back of the head with the first pitch of the inning. A strikem out, throwem out double play ended the frame.

Cards third – Albert!
Duncan fanned, not only missing the ball, but also losing his bat into the stands. Pujols followed with his 28th home run of the season into the first row of seats in left. Edmonds singled to right, but Encarnacion grounded out 4-3. Cards 3-0.

Braves third – B2B rainmakers
The sprinkles turned to out and out rain. Giles and Renteria homered to left and right, respectively, with one out. The game was stopped at that point. Pujols was shown discussing something with La Russa in angry tones, likely about the Braves complaining about the beaning. Braves manager Bobby Cox is known as an umpire whiner, anyway. After the 55 minute delay ended, Andruw Jones walked on a borderline 3-2 pitch. McCann got Reyes this time as his home run just cleared the wall in right. Francoeur doubled off the wall in left center. Scott Thorman singled Francoeur home, but was out trying to take second base. Braves 5-3.

Cards fourth – Nada
Molina flied out to the track in right.

Braves fourth – In order
A 1-2-3 inning for Reyes, though an up and in pitch to Smoltz drew a glare.

Cards fifth – Threat turned back
Eckstein singled leading off. Duncan was nicked on the shin with a pitch. Eckstein took third on a Pujols fly to left. For some reason, Duncan didn't get in position to take second. Rookie mistake. Rolen then popped out and Edmonds flied out to left to end it.

Braves fifth – The minimum
Edgar Renteria took a lead-off walk, but was part of an inning-ending double play off the bat of Andruw Jones as Reyes ended strong.

Cards sixth – KKK
Smoltz fanned the side, finishing with a flourish.

Braves sixth – Flores fine
Randy Flores came in to pitch and got his three men in order. That was a far cry from his awful outing last time out against Kansas City when he walked three straight without collecting any outs.

Cards seventh – Another chance missed
Righty reliever Chad Paronto took over. John Rodriguez pinch hit for Flores and fanned swinging. Eckstein doubled down the third base line. Duncan shot a single to center, putting runners at the corners. Eckstein wasn't sharp on the bases, as he turned to look back at Andruw Jones instead of trusting Jose Oquendo, coaching at third. Pujols hit a liner to start an inning-ending 5-4-3, despite Duncan making a hard, clean slide at second.

Braves seventh – Kinney shooed
Ryan Langerhans put Josh Kinney's first major league pitch into the right field seats. #52, welcome to the bigs! Giles slapped a single to right. Renteria hit into an inning-ending twin killing. Braves 6-3.

Cards eighth – Ray dealing
One of the many ex-closers for the Braves, Ken Ray, came on to pitch. He fanned Edmonds and Miles to end the inning.

Braves eighth – Kinney sized up
Kinney stayed on. His second out was a strikeout of Andruw Jones. The next batter, McCann, doubled to left center. Edmonds couldn't reach it and ran into the wall. Francoeur singled past short, but McCann, hobbled by a bad ankle, had to stop at third. Scott Thorman fanned for the third out.

Cards ninth – Over and out
Current closer Jorge Sosa came on and retired all three. He had help from a leaping Giles to secure the 27th out.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
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

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