Game Observations – Mon. 9/25 – Padres 6-5

The St. Louis Cardinals lost for the sixth straight game, falling to the San Diego Padres, 6-5, at Busch Stadium Monday night. Jeff Suppan had a bad outing but the pen picked him up. Yet, other than surprise star Jim Edmonds, the offense was lifeless. The 80-75 Cards lead over the Astros in the NL Central is down to 2.5 games as their magic number remains lodged at five.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Suppan had his shortest home appearance of the season, going just 3-2/3 innings, allowing six hits and five runs, four of which were earned. He walked three and struck out two in a most underwhelming outing. Though the pen surrendered just one run in 5-1/3 innings, it wasn't good enough, as Brad Thompson took the loss.

The offense got an early run from Chris Duncan with a long homer in the first. In his first appearance in a month, Jim Edmonds hit a dramatic pinch-hit three-run home run in the fourth inning. But the Cards couldn't seize on the emotion, as their scoring ended there. Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion and Ron Belliard went a combined 0-for-12 in the middle of the line-up.

One year ago today
On September 25, 2005, the Cardinals finished their only losing roadtrip of the season, going 4-6. Yet, the game results were good. Jeff Suppan blanked the Brewers for eight innings and Jim Edmonds tripled and homered in the Cards' 2-0 win. It was their 14th shutout of the season. Suppan matched his career-high victory total (16) and evened his career mark at 94-94. The Cards turned three double plays in the win to set a single-season club record. The win was the 50th road victory for the Redbirds in 2005. (The 2006 club won just 34.)

The match-up
Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.07) vs. Mike Thompson (4-5, 4.77). The original starter, David Wells, was a late scratch.

The line-up
Wilson (RF), Duncan (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion (CF), Belliard, Vizcaino (SS), Molina and Suppan.
In: Preston Wilson, Ron Belliard, Jose Vizcaino. Out: David Eckstein, Aaron Miles, John Rodriguez. David Eckstein is out again, but perhaps could return to action this coming weekend.

On to the game…

Padres first – Error and DP
It didn't take long for the baseball to find fill-in shortstop Jose Vizcaino. He threw the ball away, allowing the speedy Dave Roberts to reach to start the game. Brian Giles grounded into a double play to ease the pressure.

Cards first – Cards Rookie of the Year
Chris Duncan blasted his 21st home run into the seats in center, 434 feet away. Cards 1-0.

Padres second – Batted around
Adrian Gonzalez blasted a one-hopper off the wall in right center. Wilson did a good job backing up Encarnacion, who had gotten too close to the ball. Mike Cameron's single put the runners on the corners and Geoff Blum's single tied the game. Josh Barfield's single scored another. Thompson's sacrifice failed, as Molina threw to second to erase Barfield as the pitcher replaced him at first. Dave Roberts was awarded first base on catcher's interference as the bat hit Molina's glove. It was coded as an error and loaded the bases. Jim Edmonds was missed as a double by Giles flew over Encarnacion's head and cleared the bases. Todd Walker took a free pass as Brad Thompson warmed up. Mike Piazza was finally nabbed as the third out. Padres 5-1.

Cards second – Two infield hits
Vizcaino singled with two down. Molina also reached on an infield single, but that was it.

Padres third – Got a break
Gonzalez walked leading off. Rolen snared a line drive off the bat of Cameron and fired the ball to first to double up Gonzalez trying to get back to first. Replays showed the runner was likely safe.

Cards third – Tying run at the plate
Wilson singled to center leading off and took third on a Duncan single. Pujols' single up the middle enabled him to collect RBI #130 on the season. Rolen grounded into a harmful 4-6-3. Encarnacion's hard hit ball went off the pitcher, but was the third out. Padres 5-2.

Padres fourth – Soup's out
Roberts singled past Suppan with two out. A wild pitch put him at second base. Brian Giles walked. That ended La Russa's patience as Suppan departed for Tyler Johnson. Roberts swiped third. Johnson fanned Walker to escape.

Cards fourth – Edmonds answers
New third baseman Manny Alexander committed a throwing error, good for two bases for Belliard, leading off. Vizcaino singled to put runners on the corners. Jim Edmonds pinch-hit, appearing for the first time since August 26. His home run into the first row of seats in right tied the game. Dramatic. Thompson left in favor of Jon Adkins. Tie 5-5.

Padres fifth – Hold them now
Josh Kinney pitched and walked Adrian Gonzalez with one out. He was stranded there.

Cards fifth – Glove work
Adkins began his second inning of work and got two good plays behind him, by Alexander and Barfield.

Padres sixth – Bats quiet
Kinney registered a perfect inning.

Cards sixth – Fourth-string shortstop
Scott Cassidy fanned Belliard on three straight pitches. Vizcaino was hit on the foot by a pitch and had to leave the game. John Nelson pinch ran. Miles singled into the right center gap to put runners on the corners. Wilson tried to call time out, but it wasn't granted and he struck out swinging. His protest was of course in vain.

Padres seventh – Lead retaken
Brad Thompson pitched and Aaron Miles became the shortstop. Leading off, Giles dropped a ground rule double in front of a sliding Duncan, who kicked the ball into the stands. Hungo praised Duncan's hustle. Alexander sacrificed the runner to third. Piazza singled over the drawn-in infield for the lead RBI. Khalil Greene pinch ran. Gonzalez grounded into a double play. Padres 6-5.

Cards seventh – Running out of at-bats
The lefty Alan Embree pitched and predictably, he fanned Duncan. Cla Meredith was brought in to face Pujols and fanned him, too. A fly ball by Rolen makes it an 0-for-4 night for the third baseman.

Padres eighth – One run difference
Thompson continued. Rolen and Miles almost collided on a foul pop that clanged off Miles' glove. Belliard made a nice play running toward the first base line to retire Blum. Then, Barfield fanned.

Cards eighth – Three outs more
Hitting for Thompson, John Rodriguez singled to right before Scott Linebrink came in to retire Skip Schumaker.

Padres ninth – Looper shaky
Rob Bowen singled off Braden Looper. Roberts forced Bowen out and stole second base. Giles took an intentional walk. The pitcher Linebrink was allowed to hit and singled to left, but Duncan threw out Roberts at home plate for the third out.

Cards ninth – Three Ks
Miles started it right by singling over short against Linebrink as Pads' closer Trevor Hoffman was unable to go. Preston Wilson looked helpless fanning. Hungo pointed out the strikeout was better than a double play. True enough, but with two outs to go, wouldn't another baserunner be nice? Duncan flailed and missed, striking out. Both he and Wilson did it twice on the evening. Pujols took a free pass. Rolen fanned on a check swing on a pitch in the dirt to end the game. To say the hitters were overanxious in the ninth is the understatement of the evening.

In conclusion
Jeff Suppan was awful, but the offense deserves most of the blame for the loss. Jim Edmonds was a breath of fresh air, tying the game in the fourth with his three-run pinch-hit homer, but nothing happened after that. The 4-5-6 hitters for the Cards were 0-for-13 on another disappointing night. Brad Thompson took the tough loss for a pen that allowed just one run over 5-1/3 innings of work. The crowd was lifeless and so was the team.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Tue., Sept. 26 vs. Padres: Chris Carpenter (15-7, 2.93) vs. Woody Williams (10-5, 3.53) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Wed., Sept. 27 vs. Padres: Jason Marquis or Anthony Reyes vs. Chris Young (11-5, 3.55) 7:10 p.m. FSNM

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

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