Game Observations – Mon. 9/18 – Brewers 4-3

The St. Louis Cardinals began their final road trip of the 2006 regular season with a disappointing 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers Monday evening at Miller Park. Albert Pujols had a three-run home run, a single and a double, but Braden Looper took the defeat in relief. The 79-69 Cards' lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division is seven games.

Cardinals starting pitcher Anthony Reyes again pitched ok, but was not nearly economical enough. He only lasted 5-1/3 innings, throwing 100 pitches in the process. Still, Reyes fanned a season-high nine hitters, and allowed two runs on five hits and one walk.

The Cardinals hitters couldn't get a big hit early, stranding eight runners in the first four innings alone. Yet, Albert Pujols' big three-run home run in the seventh tied the game before Braden Looper allowed the game-ending run in the bottom of the ninth.

One year ago today
On September 18, 2005, the Cardinals fell to Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs 7-4 at Wrigley, preventing Chris Carpenter from gaining his 22nd win. Rookie Anthony Reyes (1-1) took the loss in his second career appearance. John Rodriguez homered in the loss and So Taguchi tied the game at 4-4 with an RBI double in the fifth.

The match-up
Anthony Reyes (5-7, 5.03) vs. Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.66). With Sunday's rainout delaying Jeff Weaver until Tuesday, struggling Jason Marquis is being skipped this time through the rotation.

The line-up
Taguchi (CF), Wilson (LF), Pujols, Encarnacion (RF), Rolen, Belliard, Bennett, Miles and Reyes.
In: So Taguchi, Preston Wilson, Gary Bennett.
Out: Chris Duncan, Scott Spiezio, Yadier Molina.
The catcher ends up with two days rest – a good idea this late in the season. Miles drops down from the top to number eight.

On to the game…

Cards first – Two stranded
Corey Hart in left and Tony Gwynn, Jr. in center narrowly missed a collision in a failed attempt to catch Albert Pujols' two-out double into the gap. Pujols cruised into second base standing up. Juan Encarnacion walked before Rolen flied out to left.

Brewers first – RISP remained
Tony Graffanino shot a one-hopper off the wall for a one-out double. Reyes did a nice job getting the last two outs and stranding the runner in place.

Cards second – Another RISP
Miles doubled into the left field corner on a full count pitch with two down. Reyes didn't get him home.

Brewers second – Jenkins goes deep
Geoff Jenkins homered to left center leading off. Damian Miller singled to right with two down before Reyes fanned Capuano. Brewers 1-0.

Cards third – No score with runners on corners and no out
Leading off, So singled off Prince Fielder at first. Capuano then had So caught off first, but instead of throwing there, the ball squirted out of Capuano's hand and went into right field. So ended up at third base with no out. Wilson was hit on the left foot with a pitch. Pujols popped up to short right, missing an RBI opportunity. Encarnacion hit a one-hopper to second to erase Wilson. Rolen popped out to finish off ruining a great chance.

Brewers third – Some glove help
Belliard made a nice backhanded toss after bobbling the ball to just beat the speedy Gwynn. at first base leading off. Graffanino fanned and Fielder skied out to center.

Cards fourth – RISP with no out, no run
Belliard shot a stand up double into the left field corner leading off. Bennett moved the runner over. Miles fanned and Reyes tapped out. The Cards have had runners in scoring position all four innings and nothing to show for it.

Brewers fourth – Working out of a jam
On a Jenkins' chopper, the ball hit the second base bag. Miles' throw was wide of first. The single and throwing error put the runner on second with one down. Reyes fanned Hart for out #2 before walking David Bell. Damian Miller fanned to end the inning.

Cards fifth – Another hit
Pujols singled to center with two outs but was stranded.

Brewers fifth – Lead doubled
Gwynn tripled into the right field corner with one out. A Graffanino sac fly plated the run. Brewers 2-0.

Cards sixth – Bad trend
For the first time all night, the Cards were retired in order.

Brewers sixth – No win for Reyes
Reyes departed with one out at exactly 100 pitches and the bases empty in favor of Randy Flores. Reyes tied his season best with nine strikeouts. Jenkins singled to right off Flores and with all righties next, Flores departed. Hancock served up a triple to Corey Hart as the ball shot past Rolen and took a ricochet off a seating area that juts out in foul territory. By the time Wilson ran the ball down, the run was in and Hart was on third with one out. Hart was tagged out at the plate as Hancock threw home to Bennett on Bell's comebacker. Bennett made a nice stretch and tag. Miller just missed a home run to the wall in left for the third out. Brewers 3-0.

Cards seventh – Three RBI for Albert
Miles hit a one-hopper that Capuano stopped, but couldn't hold. An infield single resulted. David Eckstein made his first appearance in a month, since August 18. He lined out to second. So took a free pass. After Wilson fanned again, Pujols tied the game on a home run to left. Encarnacion hustled a double before Rolen ended another threat. Tie 3-3.

Brewers seventh – Holding ‘em
Brad Thompson took over. Graffanino reached via a double with two down. Fielder was given an intentional pass. It worked as Bill Hall flied out to center.

Cards eighth – Chris collision
Former Tiger Chris Spurling pitched in his Milwaukee debut. Chris Duncan greeted him with a single. He moved up to second. With two out, John Rodriguez was intentionally walked. But, that was it as Scott Spiezio made the third out on a check swing grounder.

Brewers eighth – Molina guns down another
Tyler Johnson got his man leading off. Hart singled off Braden Looper but was caught stealing second base on the next pitch.

Cards ninth – Hope for extras
Closer Francisco Cordero came on to hold the Cards. Wilson and Pujols both took called strike threes and Encarnacion hit a weak comebacker to the mound.

Brewers ninth – Looper loses
Looper stayed on. The #8 hitter Miller singled leading off. Drew Anderson pinch ran. Jeff Cirillo bunted him over and almost reached himself. Gwynn flied out. Graffanino worked Looper for ten pitches before singling to left to end the game. Brewers 4-3.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Tue., Sept. 19 @ Milwaukee: Jeff Weaver (3-4, 5.48) vs. Ben Sheets (5-6, 4.08) 7:05 p.m. FSNM
Wed., Sept. 20 @ Milwaukee: Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.23) vs. Carlos Villanueva (1-1, 4.05) 7:05 p.m. WB11

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

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