Game Observations – Fri. 7/7 – Cards 8-2

The St. Louis Cardinals evened their road series against the Houston Astros at one game each, winning 8-2 Friday night, as Jason Marquis pitched 7-2/3 strong innings. Their 46-39 record kept them two games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division.

Jason Marquis pitched a fine game, his best in three weeks, allowing two runs in 7-2/3 innings. He gave up six hits and two walks, fanning four. Jason Isringhausen earned the final four outs for his 26th save of the season.

All the Cards starters reached base at least once. Gary Bennett had three singles with an RBI and a run scored. Scott Rolen doubled and scored twice. John Rodriguez hit his first home run of the season and doubled, scoring both times. Jim Edmonds made a highlight reel catch in center.

One year ago today
On July 7, 2005, the Cardinals lost 2-1 to Arizona. Leading off the ninth inning, Luis Gonzalez hit a walk-off home run off reliever Ray King for the win. Jason Marquis pitched eight innings and gave up a solo home run among four hits while striking out seven. The Cardinals offense managed just six safeties, three of them from John Mabry.

The match-up
Jason Marquis vs. Wandy Rodriguez.

The line-up
Eckstein, Taguchi (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Luna, Bennett and Marquis.
Out: Yadier Molina, Chris Duncan and Aaron Miles. Back in: Gary Bennett, So Taguchi and Hector Luna. The righty left fielder and second baseman headed to the bench as Yadier Molina also took the night off after getting a concussion Thursday night.

On to the game…

Cards first – Twin killing
After Eckstein fanned looking, So walked. Albert grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Astros first – Good pop
Ensberg hit a one-hopper off Marquis' glove for a two-out single. The dangerous Lance Berkman popped out to end the inning.

Cards second – Two in
Rolen hit his 28th double of the year as he shot a ball into the left field corner. After showing bunt on the first pitch, Encarnacion walked, believe it or not. It was only his 11th free pass this year. Edmonds took a full-count pitch that looked like strike three. Fortunately for the Cards, it was called ball four. The Astros' pitching coach Jim Hickey came out to calm Rodriguez down. Bases loaded. Luna lined out to second base for the first out. Bennett singled to left to score the first run and reloaded the bases. Marquis was hit on the right bicep and left (non-pitching) hand with the first pitch thrown to him to force in the second run. Eckstein fanned swinging on a high 0-2 pitch as he almost leapt out of his shoes. So grounded out on the next pitch. Cards 2-0.

Astros second – One runner
Chris Burke took a two-out walk. Everett fanned for the third out.

Cards third – Astros catch the ball
Bad knees and all, Berkman made a nice catch in foul ground against Pujols and fell into the stands. Rolen also lined out to deep right.

Astros third – 1-2-3
A strike out and two fly balls.

Cards fourth – Two more
Bennett singled to left with two down. Marquis received a gift single as Burke didn't come in quick enough on his fly to short center. Former centerfielder Willy Taveras is on the bench due to his weak bat. Eckstein collected the RBI on a single to left center. Taguchi's roller got under Biggio's glove at second base to score Marquis, who had gone first to third on the previous play. Eckstein did the same thing here. Pujols flied out the right and slammed down his helmet in disgust. Cards 4-0.

Astros fourth – Edmonds tames the hill
Berkman doubled to left with one out. Taguchi slid trying to pick up the ball, but recovered quickly. Preston Wilson shot a double off the wall in right to score Berkman. Edmonds made another patented catch on the stupid, stupid hill in center, running full speed with his back to the plate. Wilson took third after the out by Biggio. The Astros broadcasters are calling that the best catch on the hill that they have ever seen. Another fly out was collected to restrain the damage. Cards 4-1.

Cards fifth – A runner
Encarnacion hit the deck after fouling a ball off his foot with one out. Barry Weinberg and La Russa came out to check on him. He singled into right on the next pitch. Edmonds shot a one-hopper into a fielders' choice that erased Encarnacion. Luna hit it a long way, but filed out to center.

Astros fifth – Breezing
Marquis retired his men in order.

Cards sixth – You look mahvelous
So did new Astros pitcher Fernando Nieve.

Astros sixth – Creeping back
Ensberg put a line drive into the second row of those cheap Crawford Boxes in left for a solo home run. It is Marquis' 20th home run allowed this season.

This game recap is interrupted by a rant. I hate everything about this joke of a ball park – the stupid hill, the goofy fake train, the short porch in left, the closed roof on a beautiful night just to make the park noisy, the bullpens hidden behind screens – all of it. Disney could design a better ballpark. Get a real stadium and play like a real team! End of rant.

Wilson doubled into the left field corner. He was stranded there. Cards 4-2.

Cards seventh – J-Rod finally breaks ice
John Rodriguez batted for So Taguchi in an apparent reverse defensive replacement. He hit his first home run of the season up into the second deck in right – 430 feet. Cards 5-2.

Astros seventh – Big double play
Everett reached on a one-out infield single to Luna, who was ranging far to his right. Jason Lane's double play was just what the doctor ordered.

Cards eighth – Miller time
Trever (I can't spell Trevor) Miller allowed a two-out single by Bennett, but that was all.

Astros eighth – No dependable set up men?
With two down, Ensberg walked. Jason Isringhausen was asked to get four outs. Berkman singled to center to put runners on the corners, but Izzy retired Wilson to end it.

Cards ninth – Putting it away
Miller left the game after a Rodriguez double, scorched past the first baseman, and an intentional walk to Pujols. Former Cardinal Russ (Don't call me Jerry) Springer induced Rolen to hit into a fielders choice, retiring Pujols at second on his initial pitch. J-Rod took third on the play. The catcher, Eric Munson, saved a run on a pitch way outside as Rolen easily moved up. Encarnacion walked to load the bases and Edmonds walked, too, to collect an easy RBI. Luna shot a two-run single to center to ice the game. Edmonds was caught in a rundown between second and third, but surrendered easily. Cards 8-2.

Astros ninth –Izzy time continued
Eric Munson was punched out leading off and complained about it. Izzy plunked Burke on the arm with a pitch and it also bounced off Bennett's throwing hand.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
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
Monday: Off day
Tuesday @ Pittsburgh: All-Star Game 7:20 p.m. Big Fox
Wednesday: Off day

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

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