Game Observations – Sat. 8/26 – Cards 2-1

The St. Louis Cardinals shaded the Chicago Cubs for the second straight contest at Busch Stadium, winning by a 2-1 score on Saturday afternoon. Chris Carpenter pitched brilliantly, but left after eight with a no-decision. Gary Bennett starred with the bat, driving in both runs, including the game-ender in the ninth. The 68-60 Cards' lead over the Reds in the NL Central Division race is 1.5 games.

Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter looked to be on the way to a complete game, but had to leave reportedly due to cramps after eight one-run innings. Carp allowed just two hits, both by Phil Nevin, including a game-tying home run in the eighth. Randy Flores pitched the ninth and picked up the vulture win.

The Cardinals' offense could not come through in the clutch again – until the ninth inning. Gary Bennett's gap single scored Preston Wilson with the winning run. Bennett also hit a solo home run and singled earlier, to collect three of the Cardinals eight hits and both RBI. Carpenter had two himself, while the rest of the team had just three hits in the remaining 27 at-bats.

McCarver off his game
Fox' Tim McCarver showed off his knowledge as he explained that Buzz Bissinger's "Three Nights in August" was about a Cubs-Cards series from 2004. Anyone who actually read the book knows it was set in 2003, not in the Cards' World Series season that followed.

One year ago today
On August 26, 2005, the Cardinals matched a season low with three hits, two by David Eckstein, in a 4-1 loss at Washington. So Taguchi drove in their lone run with a single in the seventh inning. Jeff Suppan (12-10) took the loss, allowing four runs on eight hits in six innings pitched.

The match-up
Chris Carpenter (12-6, 3.05) vs. Rich Hill (3-6, 6.44). Forget Hill's numbers, as the Cardinals have looked awful against lefties all season long.

The line-up
Miles, Duncan, Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion (CF), Wilson (RF), Belliard, Bennett and Carpenter.
Jim Edmonds is back to the bench against the lefty Hill after going 0-for-4 with four Ks on Friday night against the right-handed starter. Yet, after butchering three balls in left on Friday, Chris Duncan is in the line-up Saturday. Duncan is hitting .216 against lefties, though that is better than Edmonds' .158 mark.

On to the game…

Cubs first – Here we go again
Duncan made an awkward leaping, tumbling catch to take away a gap double by Freddie Bynum. That doesn't make up for his terrible night defensively Friday, but at least it may not be repeated on Saturday. Suppan might have had a two-hit game had it not been for the three Cubs "doubles" that got past Duncan Friday.

Cards first – 1-2-3 start
Pujols fanned swinging on a tip to end the inning.

Cubs second – Perfect game lost
Jacque Jones walked with one out, but he never reached second safely.

Cards second – Bats quiet
Rolen was punched out looking on the way to a 1-2-3 for the 4-5-6 hitters.

Cubs third – All in order
Cedeno fanned leading off to start an in-order frame.

Cards third – Bennett takes the Hill
Gary Bennett continued his odd, but productive week by shooting a solo home run into the first row of the seats in left center. It is his third home run in his last five games. Carp was inspired, flaring a ball over the second baseman for a single. A wild pitch with two out put the runner in scoring position, but Duncan hit a little tapper back to the mound for the final out. Cards 1-0.

Cubs fourth – Like a knife
Carpenter keeps cutting though the Cubs order, this time via two ground outs and a pop out.

Cards fourth – Another hit
Encarnacion singled to right with two down, but Wilson weakly grounded out.

Cubs fifth – Double play
Phil Nevin recorded the first Cubs hit on a one-out single to right. But, he wasn't on base long, as Matt Murton hit into a 4-6-3.

Cards fifth – RISP wasted
Johnny Bench, er Gary Bennett singled with one out. Carp bunted him over, where he stayed until the third out was recorded.

Cubs sixth – Carp swimming
Three more up and down.

Cards sixth – Darned flies
Three fly balls, one each from Duncan, Pujols and Rolen.

Cubs seventh – Whew!
Aramis Ramirez just missed what would have been a game-tying home run foul to left. Carp fanned Michael Barrett swinging for the third out.

Cards seventh – No offensive pulse
Hill is matching Carp with 1-2-3s of his own.

Cubs eighth – Slim edge lost
Nevin slammed a one-out line drive home run off the back of the bullpen in left. Tie 1-1.

Cards eighth – Great chance missed
After warming up, Dusty Baker pulled Hill from the game. Bob Howry is the new hurler. Carp singled again with one out. La Russa and Barry Weinberg came out to check on Carpenter at first base, but La Russa didn't pinch run for him. Miles sharply singled past first base, putting runners on the corners. Jim Edmonds pinch hit for Duncan and fanned swinging on three pitches, not putting the bat on the ball even once. The Cubs decided not to pitch to Pujols, putting Rolen up with the bases loaded and two out. He popped up.

Cubs ninth – No decision for Carp
Carpenter came out to start the inning, but Weinberg also came out and Carp left the game without finishing his warm up pitches. Cramps in his calves is the reported reason. Randy Flores came in to relieve him and Edmonds stayed in the game. After Juan Pierre singled to left, Belliard made a nice play to start a 4-3 double play to end it.

Cards ninth – Gary "Bench" Bennett does it again
Roberto Novoa took over on the mound. With one out, Preston Wilson singled to right center and promptly stole second base. Gary Bennett's gapper to left center scored Wilson to end the game. The Cardinals celebrated after Bennett rounded first base. Cards 2-1.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Sun., Aug. 27 vs. Cubs: Jeff Weaver (2-3, 5.74) vs. Les Walrond (NR) 7:05pm ESPN
Mon., Aug 28: Off day
Tue., Aug. 29 vs. Marlins: Mark Mulder (6-6, 6.77) vs. TBD 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed., Aug. 30 vs. Marlins: Jason Marquis (13-12, 5.77) vs. TBD 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Thur., Aug. 31 vs. Marlins: Jeff Suppan (10-7, 4.77) vs. TBD 7:10 p.m. FSNM

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

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