Game Observations – Thu. 8/31 – Cards 5-2

The St. Louis Cardinals again came back to defeat the Florida Marlins, scoring four in the eighth to take a 5-2 victory on Thursday evening at Busch Stadium. The 71-61 Cards' lead over the Reds in the NL Central Division race is up to five games.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Suppan delivered his second straight solid performance on the mound, matching Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis pitch for pitch. They each allowed a single run on six hits over seven innings, but Willis' offense got him a run in the top of the next frame. Braden Looper got the win and Jason Isringhausen the save, but neither really deserved it. Looper helped the Marlins take the lead, walking a couple to go along with two hits in the eighth. Izzy had a very shaky ninth, but collected his 32nd save of the season with the help of his defense.

The Cardinals offense was quiet until Willis left the game. Against the Marlins pen, they batted around in the eighth, re-taking the lead by scoring four runs. Chris Duncan's pinch-hit home run was the big blow. Preston Wilson, So Taguchi and Juan Encarnacion each had two hits on the night.

One year ago today
On August 31, 2005, the Cardinals won two of three in Miami, winning the rubber match over the Marlins, 10-5. The Cards recorded 15 hits, including three each by David Eckstein, Albert Pujols and Hector Luna. Eckstein hit his seventh HR, Albert had two doubles and a triple and Luna fell a single short of hitting for the cycle. Jeff Suppan endured a 35 minute rain delay to pick up his 13th win. The only blemish from the Marlins came via a grand slam by call-up Jeremy Hermida and a solo shot by future Cardinal Juan Encarnacion.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan (10-7, 4.77) vs. Dontrelle Willis (9-10, 4.01).

The line-up
Wilson (RF), Taguchi (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion (CF), Belliard, Miles (SS), Molina and Suppan.
Out: Chris Duncan
In: So Taguchi
Preston Wilson came up to the top of the order and Aaron Miles dropped down. Yadier Molina gets the start in relief of the injured Gary Bennett.

On to the game…

Marlins first – Soup taken deep
Taguchi made a nice running catch to start the game. Light-hitting Alfredo Amezaga hit a home run to right. Josh Willingham singled to left with two down but was stranded. Fish 1-0.

Cards first – RISP wasted
Wilson started off the game for the Cardinals with a single past short. A pair of ground outs put him on third, but Rolen flied out to end the threat.

Marlins second – 1-2-3
Suppan's second inning was far better than his first.

Cards second – Over fast
Belliard fanned looking in the middle of an in-order inning.

Marlins third – Molina and help
Ramirez walked with one out. Molina gunned him down on a pitchout called from the bench. Miles committed a fielding error, trying to come in on a slow roller by Amezaga.

Cards third – Two on for Albert
Wilson and Taguchi singled with two out to bring up Pujols. He popped out, though.

Marlins fourth – Home team scoring
Willingham singled to right on the first pitch of the inning. Wes Helms did the same thing with one down. Pujols threw to second to retire Helms on a bouncer that looked like it might have been a double play, but Miles held onto the baseball. Incredibly, it was scored a single instead of an error. Runners on the corners with one out. The bases were loaded when Matt Treanor was walked with two out. Fortunately, Willis was up next and fanned.

Cards fourth – Small ball tie
Encarnacion singled and eventually scored on a single to right by Miles. Tie 1-1.

Marlins fifth – Ugly, but no visible damage
The on-base machine also known as Amezaga reached via a one out infield single to second base. He stole second before Dan Uggla walked on a wild pitch that put Amezaga on third. Soup induced a double play off the bat of Willingham end it.

Cards fifth – Two more stranded
Taguchi hit a ball past the third baseman, but was held to a single with two down. But, Pujols got to hit with runners on base again. He was walked. Rolen grounded into a fielders' choice for the third out.

Marlins sixth – Quick recovery
Jacobs singled leading off, but was retired in a 6-4-3. Nice turn by Belliard. A strikeout ended it post haste.

Cards sixth – KK Belliard
Willis made Belliard look bad fanning him again in the middle of another 1-2-3 inning.

Marlins seventh – Three hard outs
Rolen looked good staying with a shot off the bat of Treanor, a night after uncharacteristically committing two errors. Pujols really had to stretch to pull down a high throw by Suppan for the second out. Ramirez walked with two outs as Suppan pushes 120 in his pitch count. Looper began to get loose in the pen. Ramirez stole second before Pujols had to make a sliding out to barely beat the runner to the bag for the third out.

Cards seventh – Soup's done
Hitting for Suppan, Jose Vizcaino fanned for the second out of another runner-less frame. (I am running out of ways to say that.)

Marlins eighth – Looper lightswitch - on, off, on, off…
Looper fanned Uggla, his first batter faced. However, he walked the next man, Willingham. Another strikeout before Helms singled to left. Randy Flores began to loosen up in the pen. .219 hitter Joe Borchard walked to load the bases. Miguel Olivo pinch-hit. He was jammed, but nubbed a ball up the line toward third. Rolen couldn't get to the ball in time as Oliva legged out an RBI single. A third strikeout ended the inning finally. Fish 2-1.

Cards eighth – Offense takes Looper off hook
Hitting for Taguchi, Chris Duncan slammed the first offering from former Cub Sergio Mitre into the seats in right. Pujols walked. Jason Isringhausen joined Jorge Sosa throwing in the pen. Pujols was easily picked off at first, but Mitre's throw was far enough off line that Pujols took third as the ball escaped the first baseman Jacobs. On a 3-1 count, the Fish stupidly pitched to Rolen, who sliced an RBI single to right. Encarnacion doubled, but Rolen was held at third. Still no out. Taylor Tankersley pitched. Belliard dropped a ball into short center. Amezaga kicked the ball, allowing Belliard to take second. Miles took an intentional walk to reload the bases. Scott Spiezio's sacrifice fly plated run #5. Cards 5-2.

Marlins ninth – Izzy time = lucky time
Uggla shot a single past the diving Rolen with two out. Willingham had a similar result. Duncan the clutchless came out for a chat with Jason Isringhausen as the tying run came to the plate. Izzy didn't cover first base on a grounder to the right side, but Pujols alertly fired a strike to Rolen at third. He dived to catch the napping Uggla too far off the bag to end the game.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Fri., Sept. 1 vs. Pirates: Chris Carpenter (12-6, 2.96) vs. Zach Duke (8-12, 5.01) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Sat., Sept. 2 vs. Pirates: Jeff Weaver (2-3, 5.92) vs. Shawn Chacon (1-2, 7.88) 6:15 p.m. WB11
Sun., Sept. 3 vs. Pirates: TBA vs. Ian Snell (12-8, 4.70) 1:15 p.m. WB11

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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