Game Observations – Sat. 7/29 – Cubs 4-2

The St. Louis Cardinals fell again to the Chicago Cubs in at Wrigley Field, losing by a 4-2 score Saturday afternoon. This time, the ageless veteran Greg Maddux tamed the Cardinals bats for six-plus innings. The Cardinals' 58-46 record means their lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division remains 3-1/2 games.

Rookie Anthony Reyes struggled at times, allowing six hits and dishing out five walks in six innings. However, only three runs came home, which could have been enough to win on most days. Adam Wainwright yielded a run in the seventh that gave the Cubs a two-run cushion.

The offense had just one extra-base hit, a Scott Rolen double, among their eight hits. Albert Pujols had two singles, a stolen base and he scored both Cardinal runs. Rolen and pinch-hitter Chris Duncan were credited with the RBIs. Jim Edmonds fanned three times as part of the lackluster ten-strikeout performance of the St. Louis squad.

One year ago today
On July 29, 2005, the Cardinals fell to the Dodgers 7-5 in Los Angeles. The Cards stranded 11 baserunners and could hold the home team after tying the game at 5-5 in the sixth. Matt Morris suffered his second straight loss, allowing a season-high seven runs. Both teams committed a pair of errors, with the Cards' two leading to three unearned runs. Albert Pujols hit his 28th home run and Abraham Nunez had his second-straight three-hit game. As an aside, in this horrendous 2006 campaign in which he is hitting .157 for the Phillies, Nunez has not had a multi-hit game in the almost three months since April. I guess money isn't everything, is it?

The match-up
Anthony Reyes (2-4, 4.57) vs. future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (8-11, 4.83).

The line-up
Eckstein, Taguchi (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion, Edmonds, Luna, Molina and Reyes.
Out: Chris Duncan and Gary Bennett.
In: So Taguchi and Yadier Molina.

On to the game…

Cards first – Get to him early
Pujols singled with two outs and stole second base. Rolen brought him home with a bloop single. Encarnacion also singled but in an indication of how the day will go, Edmonds fanned swinging. Cards 1-0.

Cubs first – Picked clean
Michael Barrett was hit on the rear by a pitch with two out and he moved up on a passed ball. Aramis Ramirez walked, but Molina did it again, picking Barrett off second base.

Cards second – GO GO GO
Three ground outs made for a quick Maddux inning.

Cubs second – Bad play means two runs
John Mabry walked with one out after arguing he was hit on the foot. Dusty got some needed exercise making his arguments. Angel Pagan singled in front of Edmonds. Ronny Cedeno's single to right scored Mabry because Rolen didn't notice that he was caught between third and home. Cedeno was caught in a rundown between first and second, but when Pagan came home, both runners ended up being safe. Juan Pierre singled, but Cedeno was thrown out at the plate by Encarnacion. Cubs 2-1.

Cards third – Doubled up
Taguchi reached on an infield single with one out. As Pujols flied out to right, So was doubled up at second base because he didn't tag up. I am so tired of the fundamentally-sound stuff.

Cubs third – Just one runner
Ramirez walked with two out, but that was it.

Cards fourth – Is he good or they are bad?
Juan fanned swinging and Edmonds took a called strike three to end a strong inning for Maddux.

Cubs fourth – Reyes buckles down
Mabry reached leading off on a Luna throwing error, but he never advanced.

Cards fifth – Nothing
The bottom three went down quickly.

Cubs fifth – Two extra-base hits
Pierre tripled to right leading off. He scored on a one-out double by Cardinals-killer Barrett. Ramirez walked, but Jacque Jones grounded into a double play to end the inning. Cubs 3-1.

Cards sixth – Three down
So fanned for Maddux' sixth K in six innings.

Cubs sixth – Two RISP
Mabry took a leadoff walk. He was forced at second by Pagan. Cedeno singled. But after a sacrifice, Reyes got Pierre to fly out to end it.

Cards seventh – Wuertz hurts
Rolen doubled leading off, his 31st of the year. That ended Maddux' day. Unfortunately, Michael Wuertz came in firing bullets, though he had help, whiffing Encarnacion on an outside pitch and Edmonds (again) swinging.

Cubs seventh – Another run
Adam Wainwright and Aaron Miles came in. Barrett singled with one out and a Ramirez double put two in scoring position. Jones was walked intentionally to load the bases. Mabry's sac fly plated the run. Cubs 4-1.

Cards eighth – Sinking feeling
Eckstein singled off Scott Eyre with two out. That won't do it.

Cubs eighth – Izzy time at wrong time
Jason Isringhausen and Chris Duncan came in. Three quick outs followed.

Cards ninth – Close but so far
Closer Ryan Dempster allowed a Pujols single leading off. He took third on two ground outs. Edmonds walked. Duncan plated the run with a single to right. Pinch-hitter John Rodriguez walked to load the bases, but Aaron Miles fanned swinging to end the game. Sure glad La Russa made that double switch. I would rather have seen Izzy hitting.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Sun., July 30 @ Cubs: Chris Carpenter (10-4, 2.68) vs. Carlos Zambrano (11-3, 3.27) 1:20 p.m. WB11
Mon., July 31: Off day
Tue., Aug. 1 vs. Phillies: Jeff Suppan (8-5, 4.98) vs. Cory Lidle (8-7, 4.74) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed., Aug. 2 vs. Phillies: Jeff Weaver (1-1, 6.46) vs. Brett Myers (6-5, 3.57) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Thu., Aug. 3 vs. Phillies: Jason Marquis (12-8, 5.67) vs. Cole Hamels (2-5, 5.98) 7:10 p.m. FSNM

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

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