Game Observations –Thu. 7/13 – Cards 3-2 (14)

The St. Louis Cardinals opened their second half and their four-game home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 3-2 victory in 14 innings Thursday night. It was the Cards' third straight extra inning win. Jason Marquis pitched eight strong innings to lead the way and Albert Pujols ended it with a walk-off home run.

Jason Marquis turned in his third solid outing in a row, this time allowing just two runs on six hits in eight full innings. His only mistake was a Nomar Garciaparra home run in the third. But, the offense wasn't able to get him much run support. The bullpen offered up six shutout innings, with Braden Looper being the pitcher of record.

The offense had the Dodgers on the ropes early and often, but left ten runners on the bases in just the first five innings. Jim Edmonds' home run in the bottom of the seventh tied the game and Albert Pujols' 30th home run of the season ended it with one out in the 14th. It was his seventh career walk-off homer.

The Cards' 49-39 record kept them four games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division race.

One year ago today
On July 13, 2005, the Cardinals were off during the All-Star break, preparing to take Houston three straight in arguably the pivotal series of the 2005 regular season. The Cards' lead coming off the break was 11.5 games.

The match-up
Jason Marquis (11-6, 5.55) vs. 21-year old rookie Chad Billingsley (0-2, 5.27).

The line-up
Eckstein, Spiezio (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Duncan (RF), Molina, Miles and Marquis.
Juan Encarnacion was sidelined by a wrist injury. No word when it occurred.

On to the game…

Dodgers first – Two on, none in
Rafael Furcal reached on a first-pitch soft infield single that Marquis may have normally been able to make. Furcal stole second with two down. J.D. Drew walked before Jeff Kent flied out to end the threat.

Cards first – Golden opportunity missed
David Eckstein singled up the middle. Pujols was hit by a pitch on the hip. Rolen singled off Furcal at short to load the bases with one out. Edmonds looked bad striking out before Duncan flied out to the track.

Dodgers second – Doing it ugly
The Dodgers had a 1-2-3 inning, but their bats aren't missing many pitches as line drives seem to be the rule in the early going.

Cards second – Molina muff
Molina started it off with a single to left. What was he doing trying to take second when the ball got a few steps away from the catcher? Molina was a dead duck as a result. It then began to rain and the inning went downhill from there.

Dodgers third – Blood drawn
Furcal doubled into the left field corner with one down. He moved up to third on the second out. Nomar Garciaparra hit a home run on a pitch that just cleared the wall in left center. If Spiezio had been able to get back more quickly, he might have been able to leap for it. Dodgers 2-0.

Cards third – No clutch means another crash
Eckstein and Spiezio drew lead-off walks. The runners moved up on a ground ball out by Pujols. Another great chance missed as Rolen flailed at strike three. Edmonds walked to load the bases. Duncan flied out on the first pitch.

Dodgers fourth – Coulda been worse
With two out, Cesar Izturis hit a ground rule double into the left field stands. Carcher Russell Martin walked, but Marquis collected the third out.

Cards fourth – Two more on
Miles reached on an infield single off Billingsley with one out. Marquis singled to center before Eckstein grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3.

Dodgers fifth – Twin killing helpful
Furcal reached again on a single to right, but was erased one out later via a double play off the bat of Nomar.

Cards fifth – Three more stranded
Albert smacked a one-hopper off the wall in left for a double. Rolen walked. Edmonds fanned on ball four. Duncan walked to load the bases again before Molina grounded out to third. Ten stranded in five innings!

Dodgers sixth – Only one mistake so far
Marquis fanned Jeff Kent and Andre Ethier to end a strong 1-2-3 frame.

Cards sixth – Gio tracker
Giovanni Carrara took over on the mound. He made quick work of the 8-9-1 hitters.

Dodgers seventh – Marquis pitching well
Izturis singled leading off. He was quickly erased on a failed hit-and-run.

Cards seventh – Hollywood's homer
Rolen doubled into the left field corner with two out. Can Edmonds please get him home? On a full count, he did it! Edmonds clubbed a game-tying home run high and deep into the seats in right field. Tie 2-2.

Dodgers eighth – Gloves in right places
Miles made a nice diving stop and throw from his knees to retire the lead-off man, Furcal, for the first time all night. Nomar flied out to the track in right for the third out.

Cards eighth – Can't do it yet
Another 21-year old, Jonathan Broxton, took over pitching duties for the Dodgers as Tyler Johnson and Adam Wainwright warmed up for the good guys. Miles singled past short with one out. John Rodriguez, batting for Marquis, forced Miles out. Eckstein was out 4-3 on a close play.

Dodgers ninth – Over to the pen
Tyler Johnson and So Taguchi (LF) came into the game. Johnson fanned Drew and departed for Wainwright. Andre Ethier singled to left with two out and was stranded.

Cards ninth – Not quite
Martin made a great attempt to catch Pujols' foul ball, falling into the stands. But, the ball squirted out, giving Albert another chance. He flied out to the warning track in center for the second out. Rolen popped out to second to send the game into extras.

Dodgers tenth – Adam's jam
Martin stroked a lead-off double into the right field corner. Rolen had to eat a slow roller by Ramon Martinez that put runners on the corners with no out. Josh Kinney and Braden Looper are warming up. Miles collected out #1 on high liner hit to his left. Pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz fanned. Nomar stepped in. Al and Dan wanted him walked, but Wainwright and the Cards went after him. They were rewarded when Nomar whiffed, much to the delight of the fans, as well as Wainwright.

Cards tenth – No threat
Joe Beimel retired the 5-6-7 hitters.

Dodgers eleventh – Izzy time, scary time
Jason Isringhausen came in and walked his first batter, Drew. He walked Izturis intentionally and retired Martin to escape.

Cards eleventh – Quiet time
No baserunners in Beimel's second perfect inning.

Dodgers twelfth – Josh's jam
Josh Hancock allowed a one-out double to Furcal, but kept him there.

Cards twelfth – Two on again
Leading off against closer Takashi Saito, Taguchi reached base on a walk and moved up on Pujols' ground out. Playing it safe, the Dodgers gave Rolen an intentional walk. Edmonds grounded out on a check swing to put two in scoring position, though the second runner is insignificant. Luna flied out to right.

Dodgers thirteenth – Glove help
Edmonds made a nice running catch in deep left center for the third out of Hancock's second frame.

Cards thirteenth – Weaver sighting
Jeff Weaver made his first Cardinals appearance as a pinch-hitter with one out against his former team. He fanned looking. I wonder why La Russa burned Weaver that way, when he is rested and could pitch later. Juan Encarnacion earned a walk, but Eckstein lined out to Martinez at second to send the game to the 14th.

Dodgers fourteenth – A harmless runner
Braden Looper took over. With two down, Rolen made a diving stop and throw from his knees. But, the throw just pulled Albert off the bag as Martinez was safe. A forceout at second ended it.

Cards fourteenth – Albert ends it
Odalis Perez pitched. Pujols is 9-for-14 with four home runs against Perez in his career. But, the Dodgers elected to pitch to him. Pujols put a 3-1 pitch over the bullpen in left for his 30th home run of the season. Cards 3-2.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Fri., July 14 vs. Dodgers: Chris Carpenter (7-4, 3.08) vs. Derek Lowe (7-5, 3.88) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Sat., July 15 vs. Dodgers: Anthony Reyes (1-3, 3.86) vs. Mark Hendrickson (0-2, 4.91) 12:20 p.m. Big FOX
Sun., July 16 vs. Dodgers: Jeff Suppan (6-5, 5.83) vs. Brad Penny (10-2, 2.91) 1:15 p.m. WB11
Mon., July 17 vs. Braves: Jeff Weaver (0-0, 0.00) vs. Chuck James (3-0, 3.16) 6:05 p.m. FSNM/ESPN
Tue., July 18 vs. Braves: Jason Marquis (11-6, 5.34) vs. John Thomson (2-7, 5.88) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed., July 19 vs. Braves: Chris Carpenter (7-4, 3.08+) vs. Tim Hudson (6-8, 4.56) 7:10 p.m. FSNM

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

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