Game Observations – Tue. 8/01– Phils 5-3

The St. Louis Cardinals fell again in their first game back home, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies by a 5-3 score Tuesday evening. The Cardinals have lost five straight. Their 58-47 record means their lead over the also-slumping Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division remains 3-1/2 games.

Jeff Suppan started for the Cardinals and lasted two batters into the sixth inning. He wasn't helped by three errors, yet four of his five runs allowed were earned. Suppan gave up two home runs among his nine hits. He also walked three. Jorge Sosa made his first appearance in the uniform a good one, escaping an inheriting a bases-loaded jam and going 1-1/3 shutout innings.

The Cards made another soft tosser look like Cy Young. Scott Mathieson, who was just called up from the minors, was credited with his first major league win despite giving the Cardinals eight baserunners in the first five innings. Yet, those three hits were all the Cards would muster all evening, as the Phils' pen tossed four hitless frames. All in all, a very uninspired showing by the offense.

One year ago today
On August 1, 2005, the Cardinals blew a 4-2 lead as the Florida Marlins scored four runs in the sixth inning en route to a 6-5 win. John Rodriguez went 2-for-3 with two RBI and Albert Pujols had a solo home run. So Taguchi went 3-for-4. Jason Marquis (9-9) took the loss, allowing six runs on nine hits in six innings.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan (8-5, 4.98) vs. Scott Mathieson (0-2, 5.48). The latter replaced Cory Lidle, who was traded to the Yankees with outfielder Bobby Abreu over the weekend.

Hungo stumbles
In the first inning, Al tried to cover August waiver rules. While he got some points correct, he erred in his example, saying that if Pujols was waived and claimed by another team, he would have to be traded. He may have meant to say that Pujols could be called back if put on revocable waivers. Al also didn't know that a player could be only pulled back once during the waiver period. He thought it was multiple times, but acknowledged he didn't know the exact number. Then he cited the Randy Myers example with the Padres, but incorrectly said that Myers never played for them. In fact, Myers pitched in 21 games for San Diego after being claimed in 1998 from Toronto. Not to pick on Al, but he said Mets reliever Duaner Sanchez was injured in a taxi on the way to the ballpark. The reality is that the accident occurred in the early hours of Monday morning. Maybe he had a 1 a.m. game. Then, Al said Estaban Yan "pitched well for a couple of years after he left here." Actual ERAs in the three years since: 3.83, 4.59 and 5.55. Yan is on his third team this season, Kansas City, having been released twice.

The line-up
Eckstein, Duncan, Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Belliard, Molina and Suppan.
Out: Aaron Miles, John Rodriguez and Scott Spiezio.
In: Albert Pujols, Juan Encarnacion and newcomer Ron Belliard, wearing #7. Jorge Sosa, set to relieve, was issued number 31.

On to the game…

Phils first – Utley hits again
Lead-off man Jimmy Rollins singled to right. With one down, Chase Utley singled to center to extend his hit streak to 33 games. But, Ryan Howard's 3-6-3 ended the threat.

Cards first – Quiet
Chris Duncan struck out in the middle of a 1-2-3 inning.

Phils second – Harmless leadoff double
Pat Burrell doubled into the right field corner to put a runner in scoring position with no out. Aaron Rowand was punched out looking and Abraham Nunez went down swinging for a big pair of outs. #8 man Chris Coste walked, but Mathieson hit into a force out.

Cards second – Two walks
After Rolen flied out to the track in right, Edmonds walked, becoming the Cardinals' first baserunner. Encarnacion took a free pass, too. Thank God the Cardinals fans did not give Ronnie Belliard a standing ovation for his first Cardinals at-bat. He grounded into a double play.

Phils third – Two errors and three runs
Rollins led off again and singled again. David Dellucci also singled to right. Pujols bobbled a sharp grounder off the bat of Utley. Instead of a double play, Pujols tried to throw to Suppan covering, but everyone was safe and Albert took a deserved error. It was only Pujols' fourth error of the season, while Ryan Howard has 12. But Howard spoke offensively, as his broken bat single plated two and he moved up to second base as Belliard's relay home was wild. Duncan the chawless came out for a chat. Aaron Rowand was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Another run scored on a Nunez force out at second base. Phils 3-0.

Cards third – No answer yet
Suppan drew a one out walk, but didn't move from first.

Phils fourth – One on
Dellucci took a two-out walk, but was stranded.

Cards fourth – Small ball ties game
Pujols led off with a single to center. Rowand tried to make a diving catch in a nice effort that fell short. Rolen took a free pass. Edmonds blooped a single to short center to score Pujols. Encarnacion's force out at second put runners at the corners. Belliard brought Rolen's run home on a nice bunt to third. Well, at least it was better than a double play. Molina took a free pass. Suppan picked himself and his team up with an RBI single to center. Rowand didn't handle the ball cleanly and made a poor throw home. Tie 3-3.

Phils fifth – Howard goes Gandhi
Suppan couldn't hold the lead for one batter as leadoff hitter Howard slammed a home run, scattering Cardinals players in the back of the bullpen. Howard leads the NL with 36 long Gandhis. Rolen made a couple of nice plays subsequently. Phils 4-3.

Cards fifth – Big guns quiet
Fly out, ground out, line out from Duncan, Pujols and Rolen.

Phils sixth – Coste-ing
The #8 hitter Coste homered into the Phillies bullpen this time as Randy Flores began to warm up. Pinch-hitter Chris Roberson singled to right, ending Suppan's night. Flores dished up a single to Rollins to put runners at the corners with no out. He fanned Victorino, then Utley for the first two outs, but Rollins stole second. Molina and Flores had two different mound conferences during the at-bat to Howard, who walked. The third pitcher, new arrival Jorge Sosa, came on to get the last out with the bases loaded, a line drive out to left. Phils 5-3.

Cards sixth – Let's answer back!
Geoff Geary pitched and set the Cards down in order.

Phils seventh – Sosa better than so-so
Sosa blew away Rowand on a swinging strike three up and in leading off. Coste grounded on in the tenth pitch of his at-bat to end a 1-2-3 frame.

Cards seventh – Where are the real pinch-hitters?
For some reason, La Russa sent Marquis up to pinch hit for Sosa with one out. All five position bench players are still sitting there waiting. Marquis quickly fanned swinging as part of another 1-2-3 inning for Geary. One complete time through the order with nary a baserunner.

Phils eighth – Hancock knows his way around Philly
Josh Hancock took the mound and made for a quick inning.

Cards eighth – Looking bad
Lefty Arthur Rhodes pitched. Nunez made a nice stop on Rolen's liner to end the inning. 13 Cardinals down in a row, only three hits on the night and Pujols and Rolen won't bat again. Time to head for the exits…

Phils ninth – Pen getting exercise
Tyler Johnson allowed a single to Utley before getting one out, then yielding to Jason Isringhausen. It is bad when your closer gets no meaningful work. Izzy picked up two outs.

Cards ninth – Flashed
Closer Tom Gordon almost yielded a lead-off double to Edmonds on a foul into the left field corner. Belliard fanned as the 16th in a row and last Cardinals out of the night.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
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
Fri., Aug. 4 vs. Brewers: Chris Carpenter (10-5, 2.93) vs. Doug Davis (6-6, 5.02) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Sat., Aug. 5 vs. Brewers: Anthony Reyes (2-5, 4.56) vs. Ben Sheets (2-3, 4.58) 6:15 p.m. WB11
Sun., Aug. 6 vs. Brewers: Jeff Suppan (8-6, 5.07) vs. Chris Capuano (10-6, 3.74) 1:15 p.m. WB11

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

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