Game Observations – Wed. 9/13 – Astros 5-1

The St. Louis Cardinals missed out on a home sweep against the Houston Astros, losing game three by a 5-1 score Wednesday afternoon. Jason Marquis was chased early as Roy Oswalt dominated. The 77-68 Cards' lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division is 4-1/2 games. The Astros are 6-1/2 back.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jason Marquis was awful, and had his earliest shower of the season as a result. He allowed four runs on five hits and two walks over one inning plus one batter. Five bullpen pitchers stranded 11 more Astros runners but allowed just a single run more over eight mop-up innings.

The Cardinals offense was stymied by Astros ace Roy Oswalt, managing just four hits and two walks through eight innings. As Oswalt tired in the ninth, the Cards collected three hits, including a Ron Belliard RBI single. The game ended with two on, but they couldn't get the tying run to the plate.

One year ago today
On September 13, 2005, for the second straight night, a ninth inning base hit drove in the winning run, as the Cards beat the Prates 5-4 at Busch. David Eckstein collected the decisive hit that scored Hector Luna, who had singled and stole second base. Jim Edmonds had a two-run homer and Yadier Molina belted his eighth home run of the year. Reliever Brad Thompson improved to 3-0 with the win.

Injury report
The FSNM crew announced David Eckstein is running and taking batting practice. They went on to suggest he will be back sometime during the upcoming road trip.

The match-up
Jason Marquis (14-14, 5.66) vs. Roy Oswalt (12-8, 3.15).

The line-up
Miles, Duncan (RF), Pujols, Spiezio (LF), Rolen, Encarnacion (CF), Belliard, Bennett and Marquis.
Out: Preston Wilson, Yadier Molina.
In: Chris Duncan, Gary Bennett.
Aaron Miles was restored to the lead-off spot, as Scott Spiezio was inserted between Pujols and the slumping Rolen.

On to the game…

Astros first – Bad Jason shows up
The speedy Willy Taveras singled leading off and stole second base with one down. Morgan Ensberg's single put runners on the corners with no out. Duncan the irritated came out to the mound to talk. It didn't help much as Lance Berkman walked. Aubrey Huff just missed a grand slam as the ball went foul to right before eventually striking out. Luke Scott walked home the first run. Chris Burke singled in two more. Even Hungo criticized Marquis for not backing up home plate on the throw. Brad Thompson began to warm up in the bullpen. Eric Bruntlett singled in another run before stealing second. #8 hitter Brad Ausmus fanned. Marquis went to a full count on the .155-hitting pitcher Oswalt before getting him to ground out. Astros 4-0.

Cards first – Chance to halve the lead
Chris Duncan walked with one out. Scott and Bruntlett collided trying to catch Pujols' foul pop to left before the slugger flied out to right. Spiezio flied out to right center for the third out.

Astros second – Jason to the showers
Here we go again. Taveras singled leading off. La Russa then pulled Marquis from the game in favor of Thompson. Taveras stole second base before Thompson walked Ensberg. But, Brad buckled down and ended the inning with a 6-3 double play.

Cards second – A hit
After a pair of groundouts, Belliard singled for the Cards' first hit against Oswalt. He was stranded.

Astros third – In and out of trouble
Luke Scott singled leading off. Burke singled off Miles on a ball that a better fielding shortstop would have turned into a double play. They did get a 6-4-3 on the next batter. With the pitcher next, Ausmus wasn't given anything to hit and walked. Oswalt was the third out.

Cards third – Albert anxious?
Duncan doubled past a diving Berkman at first for a double with two out. Pujols flied out to left on his first pitch.

Astros fourth – Kinney ok
Josh Kinney became the new pitcher. Taveras singled again to lead off an inning. Kinney made a nice play to get Taveras at second base on Ensberg's chopper. With a shift on, Berkman hit a dribbler through the vacated shortstop hole. Runners on the corners with one out, but Kinney escaped.

Cards fourth – K brothers
Spiezio and Encarnacion fanned in another 1-2-3 inning.

Astros fifth – Oswalt hits, too
Oswalt singled off Kinney with two down.

Cards fifth – Nada
Mike Rose pinch hit for Kinney with two down and popped out.

Astros sixth – Berkman to the berm
With two out, Josh Hancock got into some trouble. Lance Berkman hit a solo home run onto the grass berm in dead center. Hancock was unable to cleanly handle Pujols' toss to retire Huff. Then, Scott singled up the middle. Burke popped out for the final out. The Astros have stranded ten in six innings or this would be even worse. Astros 5-0.

Cards sixth – Two on
Pujols walked with two out. He's their fourth baserunner so far (two walks and two hits). Spiezio singled to put runners on the corners. Pujols clapped as he chugged into third base. But, Rolen grounded out to end the best threat of the day so far.

Astros seventh – Another Duncan drop
Chris Narveson pitched. Duncan made a two-base error on Ausmus' one-out fly ball. It was his fifth official miscue in 74 games. No further damage.

Cards seventh – Trying to help
Taveras dropped Bennett's easy fly ball in center. Nothing else happened.

Astros eighth – No more scored anyway
Berkman doubled off Narveson with one out. Huff walked. Jorge Sosa is warming up. 13 now stranded for the Astros as the inning ends with no more damage. .

Cards eighth – Don't dive headfirst, Skip
Leading off, Schumaker singled off Oswalt and dived headfirst into first base on the close play. Wish he wouldn't do that. Pujols grounded into a double play to end another solid inning for Oswalt.

Astros ninth – Does it matter?
Jorge Sosa pitched. Oswalt singled with two out. Tavares was retired for once.

Cards ninth – Shutout lost
Rolen, Encarnacion and Belliard singled with one out, the latter for an RBI as the Houston pen began to work. Trever Miller got the second out and Dan was asked to get the final out, which he did, striking out Preston Wilson. Astros 5-1.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Thu., Sept. 14: Off day
Fri., Sept. 15 vs. SF: Jeff Suppan (11-7, 4.25) vs. Jason Schmidt (11-8, 3.45) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Sat., Sept. 16 vs. SF: Chris Carpenter (14-6, 2.84) vs. Matt Morris (10-13, 4.71) 3:05 p.m. WB11
Sun., Sept. 17 vs. SF: Jeff Weaver (6-14, 5.95) vs. lefty Jonathan Sanchez (3-0, 2.40) 1:15 p.m. WB11

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

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