Game Observations – Tue. 8/15 – Cards 5-0

The St. Louis Cardinals returned home from a rough road trip to defeat the Cincinnati Reds by a 5-0 score at Busch Tuesday night. Chris Carpenter handled the Reds' offense with a four-hit complete game shutout. The Cards' win means their 63-55 record is good for a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central Division over these Reds.

In handily defeating the Reds Tuesday night, Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter lodged his second shutout of the 2006 campaign, a nifty four-hitter. He did not walk a single man and struck out six as only one Reds runner got as far as second base.

Ron Belliard drove in the first two runs and went 3-for-3 with a double and also walked. Albert Pujols and Chris Duncan each had three hits and a run scored. Pujols doubled, while Duncan clubbed a two-run home run.

One year ago today
On August 15, 2005, the Cardinals were off, returning home after a 1-3 set in Chicago. Next up were the Diamondbacks. The 74-44 Cardinals led the NL Central by ten games.

The match-up
A pair of aces - Chris Carpenter (10-6, 3.27) vs. Aaron Harang (12-7, 3.66).

Roster change
The 13th pitcher, Brad Thompson, was sent back down to Memphis, while outfielder Timo Perez was recalled for the second time this season. The other obvious left-handed hitting choice, John Rodriguez, was bypassed as he has not spent the requisite ten days in the minors before being allowed to return. Perez joins switch-hitters Scott Spiezio and Aaron Miles as late-inning options off the bench.

The line-up
Eckstein, Duncan (LF), Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen, Encarnacion, Belliard, Molina and Carpenter.
Out: So Taguchi, Gary Bennett.
In: Jim Edmonds, Yadier Molina.
Chris Duncan and Jim Edmonds both start against the righty Harang.

On to the game…

Reds first – 1-2-3
As it should be…

Cards first – Him, too
Harang fanned Duncan swinging on a low, inside breaking ball on the way to a perfect first.

Reds second – 0-for-6
So far, couldn't be better.

Cards second – Out on top
Edmonds walked to become the first baserunner of the night. Rolen forced out Edmonds at second to become the man on the bases. Encarnacion was barely retired on a broken-bat jam shot on the infield as Rolen moved up. Breaking on contact with two out, Rolen scored on an RBI single blooped into right by Ron Belliard. Cards 1-0.

Reds third – Perfect once through
Carp fanned Harang to end the inning.

Cards third – Two on
Eckstein was hit by a pitch up and in and took first base with one out. It was his 14th HBP this season. Pujols singled to center but both runners were stranded as Rolen fanned.

Reds fourth – Payback
An interesting start. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Freel was also hit on an up and in pitch, almost identical to the one that nailed the other team's lead-off man, Mr. Eckstein. He was erased trying to steal, as Molina got rid of the ball quickly. However, Molina started to run off the field, thinking the batter fanned for the third out. The count was actually 2-1 at the time.

Cards fourth – Belliard again
Encarnacion doubled into the left field corner with one out. Belliard shot a similar ball past Dunn to collect his second RBI on another double. Harang fired a ball behind Molina to continue the quiet war. No warnings, yet. Cards 2-0.

Reds fifth – Edmonds really out
The start of the inning was delayed as Barry Weinberg and Tony La Russa walked out to centerfield to retrieve an injured Jim Edmonds as he should have been throwing warmups. Apparently, he was feeling dizzy. Pujols stabbed Edwin Encarnacion's liner for the first out. Adam Dunn then singled to right for the first Reds hit of the night. Royce Clayton singled with two outs, also to right, as Dunn lumbered into second base. But, that was all.

Cards fifth – Duncan deep
Eckstein shot a single up the middle. Duncan shot a ball on a rope into the seats in right field for his 11th of the season. Duncan the elder actually showed a bit of emotion in the Pujols hit the next pitch off the center field wall on one bounce. So sacrificed Pujols to third with one out. The run scored as a Harang pitch bounced in front of the plate. Rolen then walked. At that point, La Russa actually sat down on the bench as the Reds pitching coach Tom Hume came out. Belliard singled to right for his third hit. Molina flied to center for the third out. Cards 5-0.

Reds sixth – Easy inning
Good to see Carp post another 1-2-3 frame after the big Cardinals outburst.

Cards sixth – Another threat
Ryan Franklin took over. Duncan legged out an infield single with two out as Hatteberg didn't handle the ball cleanly. Pujols singled past a diving Phillips for a single up the middle, his third hit of the night. So's gapper was run down by Griffey to end the inning.

Reds seventh – Junior erased
Griffey singled leading off but he was erased in a routine 4-3 double play.

Cards seventh – Molina predictable
Rolen stroked a hustle double as Griffey was a bit slow, slip-sliding to get to the ball. Being shown significant respect, Belliard was intentionally walked with first base open to get to the weak-hitting Molina with one out. He grounded into that double play on the very first stinking pitch. Couldn't he take just one?

Reds eighth – Nearing the end
Brandon Phillips singled up the middle leading off. He was stranded.

Cards eighth – Two more stranded
Eckstein walked and Duncan singled to right. They were stranded, but it didn't matter.

Reds ninth – Out like a light
Carpenter ended it as smoothly as it started.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Wed., Aug. 16 vs. Reds: Anthony Reyes (4-5, 4.26) vs. Bronson Arroyo (9-8, 3.54) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Thu., Aug. 17 vs. Reds: Jeff Weaver (2-3, 6.60) vs. Kyle Lohse (2-5, 6.39) 1:10 p.m. FSNM
Note: Weaver takes Jeff Suppan's regular turn.

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

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