Game Observations – Sun. 8/20 – Cards 5-3

The St. Louis Cardinals took the road weekend series against the Chicago Cubs winning by a 5-3 score on Sunday afternoon. Chris Carpenter pitched eight innings to secure his 12th win of the season. Saturday's loser, Jason Isringhausen, allowed a home run, but earned his 30th save. With the win, the Cards' 66-57 record means their lead in the NL Central Division over the Reds is 2.5 games.

On Sunday afternoon, Cardinals' ace Chris Carpenter did exactly what was expected of him – leading his team to the game and series win against their rivals, the Chicago Cubs. Carpenter was charged with just two runs in eight innings to pick up his 12th win of the season. He allowed seven hits, walked none and struck out seven. Jason Isringhausen allowed one run in the ninth, but collected his 30th save of the season.

The offense did all its damage in the first inning, as Chris Duncan hit a solo home run and Juan Encarnacion blasted a three run homer and later on, a single. Yadier Molina doubled and scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth.

Albert Pujols had a rare day struggling at the plate, striking out twice and grounding into a double play. But, it was his first multi-strikeout game since the July 28 contest, also at Wrigley. Yet, his glove didn't slump, as Albert made an important defensive play in the eighth inning.

One year ago today
On August 20, 2005, the Cardinals defeated San Francisco 4-2 at Busch Stadium behind Matt Morris, who won his 100th career game and 13th on the season. Morris allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. Jim Edmonds scored twice and Abraham Nunez had a pair of hits for the Cards. Mark Grudzielanek's RBI single in the sixth drove in the go-ahead run.

Neifi to Detroit
In a true sign that Dusty Baker's power in Chicago is waning, one of his favorites, infielder Neifi Perez, was traded to the Detroit Tigers. Perez and the remainder of his awful two year, $5 million deal move north and east, as the Tigers needed a replacement for injured Placido Polanco.

The match-up
Chris Carpenter (11-6, 3.09) vs. Juan Mateo (1-0, 3.00). The Cubs' rookie was selected by the Cardinals in last winter's Rule 5 draft, but returned to the Cubs during Spring Training. I had wished that the Cardinals would have tried harder to help Mateo succeed for them. Visa problems can be anticipated.

The line-up
Miles (SS), Duncan (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion (CF), Wilson (RF), Belliard, Molina and Carpenter.
In: Juan Encarnacion.
Out: Scott Spiezio.
David Eckstein remains out with an oblique strain suffered on Friday. Jim Edmonds is also not in the line-up, despite having pinch-hit and played at the end of Saturday's contest.

On to the game…

Cards first – Let's just end it now
Duncan almost hit the ball out of the park to right field. It was high and it was deep. Pujols singled past a diving Aramis Ramirez at third base. Rolen walked. Encarnacion blasted a three-run homer into the left field bleachers. It was his 17th of the season. Preston Wilson walked and moved up on a shot by Belliard that was turned into a 5-3 putout. Molina fanned to end it. Cards 4-0.

Cubs first – In their place
A good 1-2-3 start for Carp.

Cards second – Pujols has slipping clutch
Miles singled with one out and Duncan joined him the bases before Pujols grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Cubs second – Some action
Ramirez hammered a ball to left, but the wind held it up long enough so that Duncan could catch it on the warning track. Phil Nevin hit a short single to center with two down, but Henry Blanco struck out.

Cards third – Threat unfulfilled
Encarnacion reached on a one-out infield single, though a good throw from the shortstop Cesar Izturis might have beaten the runner. On a Wilson grounder to short that looked like a double play, Cedeno dropped the relay. Belliard singled over short to put two on for Molina, who flied out to right.

Cubs third – Didn't have time to steal
Juan Pierre stroked a single to right with two out. That was it.

Cards fourth – Carp on and off the bases
Carpenter singled leading off, but Miles grounded into a 1-6-3.

Cubs fourth – Four outs secured
Matt Murton singled to right. Then, Encarnacion lost Ramirez' fly ball in the sun despite his glasses being on. With one out, Rolen snared a Nevin chopper, ran to the bag, then fired to first to complete the double play. The normally stoic Carpenter pointed to the sky.

Cards fifth – Will four runs be it?
Pujols fanned as part of a 1-2-3 inning. Izturis made a nice diving play to get Encarnacion for the third out.

Cubs fifth – Bottom three down
Carp punctuated a quick inning by fanning Mateo.

Cards sixth – Two long outs
Belliard's fly ball to the track in left for the second out would have joined Ramirez' second-inning shot as a home run had the wind not been blowing in. Molina had the same result to end it.

Cubs sixth – Coulda' been worse
Pierre shot an up-and-in pitch off the wagon gate in right for a leadoff triple. Carp fanned Izturis, but Murton's single plated the run. Ramirez doubled past Rolen at third base to put two in scoring position. The second run scored as Miles made a nice stop and throw on Jacque Jones. Miles looks at home at shortstop to me. Cards 4-2.

Cards seventh – Another twin killing
Cedeno lost Miles' one out pop fly for an error. The ball hit him on the stomach and rolled away. Duncan's hard shot to first was turned into an inning-ending 3-6 double play.

Cubs seventh – Adios, Juan
With two out, Ryan Theriot pinch hit for Mateo and fanned.

Cards eighth – Albert whiffs again
David Aardsma took over on the mound. He fanned Pujols leading off on the way to a 1-2-3 inning.

Cubs eighth – Albert makes up for it in defense
Pierre singled to center leading off. Pujols started and ended a nifty 3-6-3, nabbing Pierre between first and second. Carp fanned Murton for out #3.

Cards ninth – More room
Molina stroked his second straight hard-hit ball to left. This one was over Murton's head for a double. As Scott Spiezio was announced to hit for Carp, the Cubs changed pitchers to lefty Will Ohman. Spiezio delivered the RBI on a sharp single to left. Cards 5-2.

Cubs ninth – Izzy time
Jason Isringhausen came on to nail down the series. Interestingly, Jim Edmonds came in as a defensive replacement. Ramirez greeted Jason Isringhausen with a home run to left. Miles made another nice running play to retire Jones at first. Nevin fanned looking. Cards 5-3.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Mon., Aug. 21: Off day
Tue., Aug. 22 at Mets: Jeff Weaver (2-3, 5.54) vs. TBA 6:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed., Aug. 23 at Mets: TBA vs. TBA 6:10 p.m. FSNM
Thu., Aug. 24 at Mets: TBA vs. TBA 6:10 p.m. FSNM

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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