Game Observations – Mon. 7/24 – Rockies 7-0

The St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Colorado Rockies 7-0 at Coors Field on Monday night. Anthony Reyes started but was outpitched by Jeff Francis, who spun a two-hit complete game shutout. The Cardinals' four-game win streak ended and their 56-42 record meant their lead over the idle Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division dropped to 4-1/2 games.

The fact that the Cardinals offense averages over five runs per game and led the league with a collective .277 batting average apparently did not impress Rockies starter Jeff Francis, who pitched five perfect innings and nine two-hit shutout frames. He allowed a single to Yadier Molina and a double to Albert Pujols and no walks or any other baserunners, for that matter.

Cardinals starter Anthony Reyes, given an extra two days off between starts, struggled. He made it 5-1/3 innings, but five of the nine hits against him were for extra bases. That combination meant a decisive loss for the Cardinals on the evening.

One year ago today
The Cardinals lost to the Cubs 8-4 on Neifi Perez's two-out grand slam in the tenth inning off Al Reyes. Cubs starter Mark Prior served up three solo home runs in the first inning to Abraham Nunez, Jim Edmonds and John Mabry. But, the Cards wouldn't score again until David Eckstein's RBI single scored Hector Luna with two out in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

The match-up
Anthony Reyes (2-3, 3.82) vs. Jeff Francis (7-8, 3.98). The Rockies are coming off a 2-8 road trip.

The line-up
Eckstein, Duncan (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Edmonds, Molina, Luna and Reyes.
In: David Eckstein and Yadier Molina.
Out: Aaron Miles and Gary Bennett.
Hector Luna slides back to second base as Aaron Miles sits after three errors in three games in Los Angeles. That and the fact the lefty Francis is pitching, which also again led to a swap of Edmonds and Encarnacion in the batting order.

On to the game…

Cards first – Variety pack
Eckstein flied out and Duncan fanned before Pujols bounced out.

Rockies first – Got it up and out
Former Expo and National Jamey Carroll doubled down the right field line. Clint Barmes bunted him over. Garrett Atkins planted a ball deep into the left field seats. Rockies 2-0.

Cards second – Grand pop outs
Two pop outs and a ground out made for another in-order frame for Francis.

Rockies second – Another run in
Brad Hawpe doubled to left before Yorvit Torrealba singed to put runners on the corners. Cory Sullivan's sacrifice fly scored one. Francis failed on a sacrifice bunt before Carroll grounded out 1-3. Rockies 3-0.

Cards third – Francis perfecto
Reyes fanned swinging as Francis completed a perfect first time through the order.

Rockies third – Reyes hurts own cause
An ugly start. Clint Barmes sliced a ball to right center. Edmonds couldn't reach it. As the ball rolled to the wall, Barmes took third. Luna's relay to third was off-line and apparently because Reyes wasn't backing up the play, the run scored when the ball got away. Luna took the error on the errant throw. Todd Helton skied a ball that dropped between Duncan, Edmonds and Eckstein. Edmonds took an indirect route that may have cost him on the play. Hawpe was out 4-3 to end it. Rockies 4-0.

Cards fourth – Three more down
Pujols fanned swinging to complete four perfectly lousy innings for the offense. It was only his third strikeout this month.

Rockies fourth – Gunned down
Cory Sullivan singled to left with one down. One out later, he was nailed on a pitchout trying to steal second.

Cards fifth – Not getting better
Three more outs as Edmonds fanned, but the ball got away and he almost beat the throw to first. At this point, the only Cardinals ball hit to the outfield was Eckstein's fly ball to open the game.

Rockies fifth – RISP held
Carroll cued a ball off the end of the bat, which then rolled up the diving Pujols arm for a single. Barmes expertly sacrificed him over on the next pitch. He took third on a fly to right, but Matt Holliday was retired 6-3.

Cards sixth – A hit!
Leading off, Molina singled to center as Sullivan dived, but didn't quite reach the ball. He moved up with two out, but Eckstein flied out to end the only threat so far.

Rockies sixth – Bad inning for the rookies
Hawpe drew a one-out walk. It was bad enough that the catcher Torrealba shot a ball to the wall in left center, but he ended up at third without a throw. It was his first career triple. La Russa has also seen enough as Josh Hancock relieved Reyes. Chris Duncan reminded us that he is an infielder in the outfield as he dropped an easy fly ball and probably about choked on his chaw in embarrassment. At least he should have as he committed the grave error of starting the throw prior to making the catch. Torrealba trotted home as the #8 hitter Sullivan ended up at second after the two-base error. Sullivan took third on a Francis out, but Carroll lined out for out #3. Rockies 6-0.

Cards seventh – Good chance
Pujols stroked a one-hopper off the wall in left center for a one-out double. He took third as Rolen flied out to the track in right center. Encarnacion was retired 4-3 to help Francis preserve his shutout.

Rockies seventh – Flood continues
Hancock stayed on. Barmes hit his first pitch of the inning over the left field fence. With two out, Tyler Johnson came in to face Todd Helton. There was also a double switch with Spiezio giving Rolen the rest of the night off. Rockies 7-0.

Cards eighth – No more
Another three up and three down frame.

Rockies eighth – In order
Two groundouts and a strike out for Tyler Johnson.

Cards ninth – It's over
Chris Duncan was the final out, as Francis faced just 29 batters.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Tue., July 25 @ Rockies: Chris Carpenter (9-4, 2.83) vs. Jason Jennings (6-8, 3.88) 8:05 p.m. FSNM
Wed., July 26 @ Rockies: Jeff Suppan (7-5, 5.17) vs. Aaron Cook (6-8, 3.80) 2:05 p.m. FSNM
Thu., July 27 @ Cubs: Jeff Weaver (4-11, 6.32) vs. Rich Hill (0-4, 9.31) 7:05 p.m. FSNM/ESPN
Fri., July 28 @ Cubs: Jason Marquis (12-7, 5.62) vs. Carlos Marmol (3-4, 4.50) 1:20 p.m. FSNM
Sat., July 29 @ Cubs: Anthony Reyes (2-4, 4.57) vs. Greg Maddux (7-11, 4.56) 3:05 p.m. Big FOX
Sun., July 30 @ Cubs: Chris Carpenter (9-4, 2.83) vs. Carlos Zambrano (10-3, 3.11) 1:20 p.m. WB11

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

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