Game Observations – Fri. 8/11 – Pirates 7-1

The St. Louis Cardinals started off another road series on the wrong foot, falling to the losingest team in the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates by a 7-1 score Friday night. Zach Duke pitched a complete game, as Albert Pujols' three doubles and a single were wasted.

Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan had an off night, struggling through 5-1/3 innings. He uncharacteristically hit two batters along with allowing eight hits, one walk and five runs. Tyler Johnson let an inherited runner score plus one of his own. For good measure, one came in on Josh Hancock's watch, too.

Albert Pujols had half the Cardinals hits as he went 4-for-4 with three doubles, but received almost no help. Right ahead of him, Ronnie Belliard grounded into two double plays and struck out twice in a dreadful showing by the #2 hitter. Juan Encarnacion collected the sole RBI.

One year ago today
On August 11, 2005, the Cards lost 11-4 to the Cubs at Wrigley as a 2-0, first-inning lead quickly disintegrated. Albert Pujols' two-run home run provided an early cushion, but the Cubs reached Mark Mulder (13-6) for seven runs on nine hits en route to their easy win. So Taguchi, Abraham Nunez and David Eckstein each had two hits.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan (9-6, 4.85) vs. Zach Duke (7-10, 5.35).

The line-up
Eckstein, Belliard, Pujols, Encarnacion, Spiezio (3B), Edmonds, Taguchi (LF), Molina and Suppan.
In: Yadier Molina, Ron Belliard and Juan Encarnacion.
Out: Gary Bennett, Aaron Miles and Chris Duncan.
Jim Edmonds was dropped to sixth with the lefty Duke pitching, but at least he is playing.

On to the game…

Cards first – On top
Eckstein unsuccessfully tried to reach via a bunt single. Pujols doubled to right with two out. Encarnacion hit the first pitch he saw up the middle for a single to score Pujols. Cards 1-0.

Bucs first – Two Ks!
Nate McLouth struck out looking to start it and Freddy Sanchez whiffed to end it.

Cards second – No hits
Edmonds was called out looking. With two down, Molina was hit by a pitch, but didn't advance.

Bucs second –Soup's command gone
Jason Bay singled and Xavier Nady was hit by a pitch. Jose Bautista doubled over a frozen So Taguchi's head in left to score one. Ronny Paulino's ground out scored the second run. Chris Duffy walked, but Suppan recovered to get the final two outs. Bucs 2-1.

Cards third – Duke dealing
Pujols singled in between swinging strikeouts by Belliard and Encarnacion.

Bucs third – No damage
The third hit-by-pitch in the game was Jack Wilson, leading off the home frame. Spiezio made a nice play coming in and throwing to collect the third out.

Cards fourth – Edmonds struggling
Spiezio legged out a bunt single down the third base line for a leadoff single. Instead of fanning this time, Edmonds grounded into a double play. About that platoon? So fanned.

Bucs fourth – Two runners not together
Jose Bautista singled past a diving Spiezio at third to start the frame. A 1-6-3 off the bat of Paulino cleared the sacks the good way. Duffy legged out an infield single that Belliard played well, but the runner was too fast. Duke fanned to end it.

Cards fifth – Belliard struggling, too
Molina singled over short. Suppan sacrificed him over. Eckstein was hit by a pitch, evening the HBP score at 2-2. The good news is that Belliard didn't strike out a third time. But, it was worse as he grounded into a 5-3 for the final two outs of the inning.

Bucs fifth – Control problems bite Soup
Leading off, McLouth blasted a 3-2 pitch deep into the seats in right. Sanchez doubled into the right center gap on a 3-0 count with one out. Bay's singled the run home. Duncan the homerless came out for a pow-wow at the mound to give Josh Hancock time to warm up. Another twin killing, a 5-4-3, ended the jam. Bucs 4-1.

Cards sixth – Leadoff double wasted
Pujols blasted his third hit of the game, a line drive double off the wall in left center, over 400 feet away. He took third on a long Spiezio fly to deep center for the second out. Edmonds fanned again.

Bucs sixth – Tyler torched
Paulino singled over a leaping Eckstein for a one-out single. La Russa came out to take the ball from Suppan. Tyler Johnson came in to get two lefties out. He got neither. First, Duffy doubled to put two in scoring position. After Duke was retired, McLouth cleared the bases with a triple. To make matters worse, Johnson then walked Wilson. At that point, La Russa finally ended Johnson's night. Josh Hancock became the third pitcher of the inning and Miles came in via the double switch to play third. Edmonds left the game. Hancock got his man. Bucs 6-1.

Cards seventh – Down in order
Miles fanned to end a 1-2-3 inning.

Bucs seventh – Hancock's turn
Bay singled off Hancock to start the inning on the wrong foot. Bautista walked. Bay scored on Paulino's single as the ball slid under the suddenly stone glove of So, who had moved over to center. It wasn't an error, just an overrun. Encarnacion was there to back him up at least. Bucs 7-1.

Cards eighth – Two hits, no runs
Eckstein reached on a single to deep short. Belliard grounded into a nice double play started by Sanchez. It was Belliard's second double play. Pujols hit a ground rule double next. Wouldn't you know it? It was wasted.

Bucs eighth – Sosa perfect
Jorge Sosa retired the Pirates in order. Where has he been all evening?

Cards ninth – Goodbye
Duke finished off his eight-hit complete game without incident.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Sat., Aug. 12 at Pirates: Jeff Weaver (2-2, 6.93) vs. Ian Snell (9-8, 4.78) 6:05 p.m. WB11
Sun., Aug. 13 at Pirates: Jason Marquis (12-10, 5.82) vs. Paul Maholm (4-10, 4.81) 12:35 p.m. WB11
Mon., Aug. 14: Open date

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

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