Game Observations – Mon. 7/17 – Braves 15-3

Jeff Weaver and the St. Louis Cardinals were defeated at home by the Atlanta Braves by an ugly 15-3 score Monday evening. It snapped the Cards' season-high seven-game winning streak and was their worst loss in the new park. The Cards' 52-40 record cut their lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division race to 3-1/2 games.

Newcomer Jeff Weaver laid an egg in his Cardinals debut. He allowed six runs on eight hits in four innings, including a grand slam. The bullpen was also hideous, with Randy Flores being charged with four runs, Josh Hancock three and Josh Kinney two.

The offense was in short supply when the game mattered. Jim Edmonds' solo home run in the fourth broke up a no-hitter. No Cardinals batter had more than one hit. So Taguchi and Chris Duncan doubled.

One year ago today
On July 17, 2005, Chris Carpenter won a pitcher's duel against Roger Clemens as the Cards defeated the Astros 3-0 in just 1:59. The Cards scored all their runs in the second inning on only two hits. Scott Rolen drove in the first run with an RBI double and Rolen and Taguchi scored on a ground ball error hit by Carpenter. Carp allowed only three hits and did not walk a batter while fanning nine to become the first 14-game winner in the National League.

The match-up
Jeff Weaver (0-0, 0.00 as a Cardinal) vs. Horacio Ramirez (4-3, 4.83).

The line-up
Eckstein, Taguchi (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Edmonds, Molina, Luna and Weaver.
Back in: So Taguchi, Scott Rolen, Hector Luna.
Out: Chris Duncan, Scott Spiezio, Aaron Miles.
Edmonds was dropped to sixth against the lefty Ramirez, as So Taguchi and Hector Luna came in via the unspoken platoon situation. The Cards are just 15-14 against left-handed starters this season.

On to the game…

Braves first – A runner
Chipper Jones took a two-out walk. But, Andruw Jones grounded out 5-3.

Cards first – Two walks
Eckstein sprinted to first base as always after drawing a leadoff walk. Taguchi and Pujols each flied out just short of the track in right. With Rolen up, Eckstein stole second base before Rolen took ball four. But, Encarnacion popped out to third.

Braves second – Two hits
Brian McCann stroked an opposite-field looper to left for a single. Adam LaRoche singled past short with one out. With Scott Thorman up, Pujols made a nice stop and fired to second to force out LaRoche. With two out and runners on the corners, Ramirez hit a dribbler to Pujols.

Cards second – Quiet
Luna lined out to second base to end a 1-2-3 inning.

Braves third – Grand slammed
Wilson Betemit and Edgar Renteria started with singles to left. Weaver walked Andruw Jones on four pitches with one out to load the bases. Brian McCann slammed the ninth pitch of his at-bat into the right field bullpen for his first career grand slam. Francoeur sliced a ball into the right field corner and when Encarnacion didn't hustle enough, the batter kept on running to third. He scored on a sac fly by LaRoche. ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe is questioning Weaver's pitch selection, but don't Molina and even Dave Duncan share that responsibility? Braves 5-0.

Cards third – No quick answer
Weaver took a leadoff walk, but was forced on an Eckstein ground out. Nothing else was going on.

Braves fourth – Cream Weaver
Betemit homered to right center with one down. That got Josh Hancock and then Randy Flores up in the pen. Chipper Jones singled past Pujols with two down. That brought Duncan out for another visit before Andruw lined out to Luna to end the inning. With McCann up next, it was likely Weaver's last hitter no matter what. La Russa walked all the way down to the other end of the bench to offer Weaver a word of encouragement as he came off the field. Braves 6-0.

Cards fourth – No hitter and shutout gone
Jim Edmonds homered the other way into the first row of seats in left center. Braves 6-1.

Braves fifth – Different pitcher, similar result
Randy Flores took over on the mound. McCann singled to left. A wild pitch moved him up. The run scored on a Francoeur single to right center. Thorman doubled off the third base bag. Two runners in scoring position with one out. Betemit's single brought them both in. Renteria walked. Chipper's single to right scored Betemit. Braves 10-1.

Cards fifth – A whimper
Luna singled, but was out as part of double play off the bat of Scott Spiezio, hitting for Flores.

Braves sixth – Hits keep coming
John Hancock took over on the mound as the switch-hitter Spiezio played second with Luna sliding over to short. It is Spiezio's third appearance of the season at second base. Too bad he can't pitch. Francoeur singled to left with one out. LaRoche doubled off the base of the wall in right. A single by Matt Diaz scored another. Betemit shot a ball off the wall between Edmonds and Taguchi to score two more. The Braves have 17 hits so far. La Russa came out to talk to Hancock, but not remove him. Braves 13-1.

Cards sixth – Ramirez "fatigued"
After warming up, Ramirez was removed for Jorge Sosa. So stroked a double to right center, which caused Braves manager Bobby Cox to come out and yell at Sosa. Pujols ripped an RBI double into the left field corner, but limped noticeably going around first. He left the game after the inning. Braves 13-2.

Braves seventh – Kinney to stop bleeding
Josh Kinney pitched next. He collected a couple of strikeouts.

Cards seventh – Duncan dunks one
Luna walked with one out. Chris Duncan doubled into the left field corner to plate the run. Braves 13-3.

Braves eighth – Insult to injury
La Roche and Sosa each homered into the Cards pen off Kinney. Actually, Sosa cleared the pen. Braves 15-3.

Cards eighth – Two on
John Rodriguez walked. Gary Bennett forced him. It should have been a double play except Sosa didn't cover first. Aaron Miles reached via a single. Both were stranded.

Braves ninth – Izzzzzzzy time
Jason Isringhausen was given an inning of work. Chipper singled off Izzy's glove with one out, but he was erased in a double play.

Cards ninth – Get it over
Pete Moylan pitched. Spiezio singled with one out. Taguchi reached on a Betemit error at short. That was all.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Tue., July 18 vs. Braves: Jason Marquis (11-6, 5.34) vs. Tim Hudson (6-8, 4.81) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed., July 19 vs. Braves: Chris Carpenter (8-4, 2.85) vs. Jason Shiell? (0-0, 0.00) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Thu., July 20: Off day
Fri., July 21 @ Dodgers: Jeff Suppan (6-5, 5.52) vs. Brad Penny (10-3, 3.26) 9:40 p.m. FSNM
Sat., July 22 @ Dodgers: Anthony Reyes (2-3, 3.82) vs. Aaron Sele (6-2, 2.91) 9:10 p.m. FSNM
Sun., July 23 @ Dodgers: Jeff Weaver vs. Chad Billingsley (0-2, 4.67) 3:10 p.m. WB11

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

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