Game Observations – Thu. 9/07 – Cards 6-2

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field by a 6-2 score Thursday night in the first of a four-game weekend series. Scott Spiezio hit two home runs, driving in three. The 75-64 Cards' extended their lead over the idle Reds in the NL Central Division race to 6-1/2 games.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Weaver was in and out of trouble in every one of the first five innings, yet ended up allowing just two runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out three along with serving up his 30th home run of the season, a two run shot. To his credit, Tony La Russa got Weaver out of the game before real damage could be caused. The pen continued to create jams and escape, as the Snakes ended up having runners in scoring position in each of the first seven innings, yet scored during just one frame. Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright finished off the D'backs.

Scott Spiezio, playing in place of Scott Rolen for the second consecutive game, impersonated Albert Pujols with two home runs and three in the last two days. He plated three. Yadier Molina was on base three times with two singles and a walk. Aaron Miles singled, tripled and scored twice. Albert Pujols had two singles and a free pass.

One year ago today
On September 7, 2005, the Cards lost to the Cubs, 2-1 at Busch. The Redbirds had plenty of missed opportunities as they finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten runners. Albert Pujols provided the lone run with a solo shot. Mark Mulder pitched a complete game, his third of the season and 25th of his career, but still was saddled with the loss.

The match-up
Jeff Weaver (2-4, 5.34) vs. Miguel Batista (10-5, 4.34).

The line-up
Miles, Duncan (LF), Pujols, Encarnacion (RF), Spiezio (3B), Wilson (CF), Belliard, Molina and Weaver.
In: Chris Duncan.
Out: So Taguchi.
Wilson dropped back down in the order as Aaron Miles was put back at lead-off. Scott Rolen is on the bench for the second consecutive game. Hmmm… In fashion news, Juan Encarnacion and Ron Belliard have joined Jason Marquis and Anthony Reyes with the high socks look.

On to the game…

Cards first – Quick runs
Leading off, Miles took a full count pitch into the left field gap for a triple. Duncan hit the first pitch to the right side of the infield to score the run. After Encarnacion singled to left, Spiezio slammed a breaking pitch deep to right for his second home run in two games. Rolen who? Cards 3-0.

D'backs first – Hard-hit balls
Wilson hauled down Chris Young's blast on the track in dead center over 400 feet away. Luiz Gonzalez doubled into the left center gap. But, he was stranded.

Cards second – RISP not cashed in
Belliard walked leading off. La Russa hit and ran with Molina, probably to avoid a double play. That part worked as he just grounded out. Neither Weaver nor Miles were unable to move Belliard to third.

D'backs second – Pujols' D, Wilson no D
Pujols made a nice diving play to stab Johnny Estrada's shot, then lost the ball beneath him. He recovered just in time to fire the ball to Weaver from his rear end. Even Albert smiled about that. Tony Clark reached second as Wilson was unable to successfully swipe at the ball as it went by. Encarnacion backed up the play nicely to hold the runner to second base. It was scored a hit and an error. Stephen Drew fanned for the third out.

Cards third – 2-3-4 down
The big guns starting with Duncan went down in 1-2-3 order.

D'backs third – Long fly draws them close
Weaver allowed his 30th home run of the season following a damaging walk to Orlando Hudson. Cards 3-2.

Cards fourth – Where's the offense?
A second consecutive in-order inning.

D'backs fourth – Weaver dodges bullet
Estrada was hit by a pitch below the elbow and had to leave the game. Chad Tracy put a ball into the left center gap. Duncan threw to third, which enabled Tracy to move up to second base. Drew was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out. Weaver did an excellent job getting the final two outs without a run scoring.

Cards fifth – Getting the two back
Molina singled leading off and Weaver expertly bunted him over. Miles legged out an infield single to put runners at the corners. Duncan fanned for the second out. On ball four to Pujols, Molina scored on a passed ball. Encarnacion's single plated Miles and put runners back on the corners. Cards 5-2.

D'backs fifth – Weaver escapes another jam
Orlando Hudson led off with a standup double to right center. Wilson made another catch with his back to the wall in dead center, this one by Gonzalez. Hudson tagged up and took third. Weaver fanned Eric Byrnes swinging. Molina forgot how many outs there were and sprinted toward the dugout. One pitch later, he got to do it for real.

Cards sixth – Weaver done
Tracy made a Rolen-like barehanded play at third base to get Wilson for the first out. Molina drew a two-out walk. Smartly, La Russa pinch-hit for Weaver before the roof fell in. A wild pitch put Molina in scoring position for Mike Rose, who fanned swinging.

D'backs sixth – Another threat turned back
Tyler Johnson took over. With two down, Drew tripled to the wall in right center without a throw. Johnson was pulled in favor of Josh Kinney as Damion Easley pinch hit for Bautista. Kinney got his man.

Cards seventh – Albert looking for help
Recent call-up, lefty Doug Slaten pitched and got the first two outs. With Pujols coming in, the veteran Jorge Julio was called upon. Pujols singled to left, but Encarnacion waved and missed for the third strike.

D'backs seventh – Another RISP stranded
So Taguchi came in on defense as Duncan departed via a double switch. Braden Looper gave up a single to Young on his first pitch. Looper fanned Hudson. Belliard took the safe throw to first to retire the hitter for the second out as Young moved into scoring position. A Byrnes fly ball ended it.

Cards eighth – Belliard not hustling
Spiezio blasted a 2-0 Julio fastball high and deep into the seats in right. It went just inside the foul pole. Wilson fanned and lost his bat, which flew halfway to second base. Hudson made a nice play on Belliard's ground ball up the middle, as Ronnie did not run hard down to first base. Uh-oh. Molina singled down the right field line with two down and moved up on a wild pitch. So Taguchi just missed a two-run homer down the left field line before taking a called strike three. Cards 6-2.

D'backs eighth – Finally
Looper stayed on for his second frame. Skip Schumaker, just back from a successful stint with Team USA, took over in left. For the first time all evening, not only did Arizona not have any runners in scoring position, but they were actually retired in order. Imagine that!

Cards ninth – Nelson debuts
Greg Aquino pitched. John Nelson made his Major League debut and struck out swinging. Pujols singled to left with two out. Encarnacion fanned again for the final out.

D'backs ninth – Wainwright time
In case Looper pitching in the seventh didn't indicate it, Adam Wainwright seems to be the interim ninth-inning pitcher. It is not a save situation. He retired all three batters faced, including a game-ending strikeout.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Fri., Sept. 8 @ D'backs: Anthony Reyes (5-6, 4.31) vs. Livan Hernandez (10-12, 5.24) 8:40 p.m. FSNM
Sat., Sept. 9 @ D'backs: Jason Marquis (14-13, 5.73) vs. Brandon Webb (14-6, 3.14) 8:40 p.m. WB11
Sun., Sept. 10 @ D'backs: Jeff Suppan (11-7, 4.39) vs. Enrique Gonzalez (3-7, 5.64) 3:40 p.m. WB11

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

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