Game Observations – Wed. 7/5 – Braves 14-4

On Wednesday night, the St. Louis Cardinals lost the rubber match of their road series against the Atlanta Braves, falling 14-4. Their 45-38 record keeps them two games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division.

Jeff Suppan started and was racked for ten runs in 3-1/3 innings. Tyler Johnson let two of those inherited runners in and another three more of his own.

Scott Rolen doubled and homered, scoring twice. Hector Luna had a two-run blast. Juan Encarnacion had two hits, but also made a terrible defensive miscue in right field.

One year ago today
On July 5, 2005, Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a 3-for-4 performance that led the Cardinals to a 7-1 win over Arizona. Pujols drove in two and scored three times on a single, double and home run. Scott Rolen and So Taguchi added two hits each. Jeff Suppan earned his eighth win going 5-1/3 innings, allowing one run.

What is the 2006 problem?
After exactly half the season - 81 games, the Cardinals are batting .280 compared to a .274 average last year. The pitching staff sported a 3.54 ERA and 51-30 team record in 2005 vs. a 4.61 ERA and 44-37 record this season.

Weak sisters
If the 2006 season ended today, the NL Central's Cincinnati Reds would be the league's Wild Card. No teams behind the NL East-leading New York Mets are within six games of having a winning record, while the four teams in the West range between three games over and four games under .500.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan opposed rookie prospect Chuck James.

The line-up
Eckstein, Taguchi (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Edmonds, Molina, Luna and Suppan.
Back in: So Taguchi and Hector Luna, with the lefty James on the mound. Out: Chris Duncan and Aaron Miles. Jim Edmonds was dropped to #6, with Juan Encarnacion moving up one spot.

On to the game…

Cards first – Over anxious?
Nine pitches and three quick outs.

Braves first – First blood is a gusher
Marcus Giles walked. Stating the obvious, that is better than a home run. But, only slightly, as Edgar Renteria tripled into the right field corner, as the ball shot oddly off a pad and seemed to elude Encarnacion. Chipper Jones walked to put runners on the corners with one out. Andruw Jones singled sharply up the middle to score Renteria. Jeff Francoeur singled to right with one down, but the ball got under Encarnacion's glove to score two. Single and a two-base error. Suppan's pitches seem to be hitting the Braves bats square on. Francoeur came home on a fly ball deep onto the track in right. Langerhans shot a single past Luna. The pitcher was the final out. Whoopee. Suppan threw 35 pitches in the inning. Braves 5-0.

Cards second – First runner
Edmonds took a two-out walk, but Molina flied out to left center.

Braves second – Now he does it
This time, Suppan retired the 1-2-3 hitters in order.

Cards third – First hit
Eckstein singled with two outs and two strikes. So then lined out to short.

Braves third – Too late?
Suppan has retired seven in a row after another 1-2-3 frame.

Cards fourth – Life is shown
With one out, Rolen homered deep into the left field seats for his 13th home run of the season. Encarnacion then singled to left. Braves 5-1.

Braves fourth – Soup burned for another five
Adam La Roche and Ryan Langerhans singled leading off. James fanned on a foul tip that hit Molina in the groin. Ouch! Giles singled to restore the five-run cushion and took second base as the throw went into third. Edmonds made a nice play in the outfield to cut the ball off to avoid further damage – for a few moments. Langerhans then scored on a Renteria single. Chipper's single scored Giles. Tyler Johnson came on to face the lefty, McCann. Lot of good that did. On an 0-2 pitch, McCann slammed a pitch off the wall in center to score two more. Francoeur then took an intentional walk to bring in another lefty. Failed again as La Roche reached on an infield single to Rolen to load the bases. A third lefty, Langerhans stepped in. Maybe the third time is the charm. Nope. He walked to force in run #11. James was fanned to end it. He was probably anxious to get back out there and pitch. Braves 11-1.

Cards fifth – Still down by a touchdown and two-point conversion
Molina doubled past third into the left field corner on the first pitch of the inning. Luna followed with a line drive home run to left center, his fourth of the season. Johnson fanned in his second major league at-bat. Eckstein was pinch-hit for by Aaron Miles. Uh-oh. Miles flied out to right. Taguchi hit an identical double to Molina's leading off, but Pujols grounded out. Braves 11-3.

Braves fifth – Johnson jolted
Luna moved over to short as Miles took over at second. Giles walked leading off. Renteria singled again. They both scored on a Chipper Jones double. Andruw Jones was hit on the ankle with a pitch. Josh Hancock relieved Johnson with one down and retired the next two. Braves 13-3.

Cards sixth – Not giving up
Rolen doubled to center leading off. Encarnacion singled to right to put runners on the corners. Edmonds hit a sac fly to the wall in center, but that was all. Braves 11-4.

Braves sixth – Thor's hammer
Off Hancock, pinch-hitter Scott Thorman slammed a solo home run to right for his first as a major leaguer. Braves 14-4.

Cards seventh – Rolling over?
Tyler Yates collected three straight ground outs.

Braves seventh – Kinney in
Josh Kinney made his second major league appearance. He walked Chipper Jones on four pitches. Two strikeouts among three outs ended it.

Cards eighth – Look out!
Macay McBride pitched. Scott Spiezio singled with two down. Edmonds then hit the deck on a ball coming right at his head before walking. That was it.

Braves eighth – Two on
Starting off, Adam La Roche singled off Randy Flores. Matt Diaz also singled with two down, but neither scored.

Cards ninth – Done
Chad Paronto finished off the game. Oh, yeah. Duncan singled.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
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
Saturday @ Houston: Anthony Reyes vs. Roger Clemens 3:05 p.m. Big Fox
Sunday @ Houston: Chris Carpenter vs. Andy Pettitte 7:05 p.m. ESPN

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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