Game Observations – Tue. 9/26 – Padres 7-5

The St. Louis Cardinals lost for the seventh straight game, falling to the San Diego Padres, 7-5, at Busch Stadium Tuesday night. Chris Carpenter was left on the mound to fall apart in the seventh inning and the Padres' bullpen shut out the offense again. The 80-76 Cards' lead over the Astros in the NL Central is down to 1.5 games as their magic number remains stuck at five.

Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter surrendered six runs for the second consecutive start. He gave up 12 hits and walked two while fanning six over seven innings. But, he had allowed only two runs through six and was left in to flail in that fateful seventh inning. Adam Wainwright gave up an insurance run in the eighth.

The offense was paced by Ron Belliard's two home runs and three RBI, but he struck out to end the game. Returning to the line-up, Jim Edmonds contributed a pair of hits and a pair of RBI, but he also fanned in the ninth. Albert Pujols was on base four times with a single, double and two walks, but popped up in a crucial spot in the eighth. The offense couldn't buy a clutch hit again.

One year ago today
On September 26, 2005, the Cardinals were off, returning home from a 4-6 road trip, spitting four in Chicago and losing two of three in both Cincinnati and Milwaukee. They were preparing to play Houston and Cincinnati to close out the 2005 regular season at Busch. The team had 97 wins and an 11.5 game lead.

The match-up
Chris Carpenter (15-7, 2.93) vs. Woody Williams (10-5, 3.53).

The line-up
Miles (SS), Duncan (LF), Pujols, Encarnacion (RF), Rolen, Edmonds (CF), Belliard, Molina and Carpenter.
Out: Preston Wilson, Jose Vizcaino. In: Aaron Miles, Jim Edmonds. After pinch-hitting Monday, Edmonds returned to the starting line-up for the first time in a month.

On to the game…

Padres first – High ground taken
Edmonds was immediately tested as Dave Roberts doubled over his head leading off. A wild pitch put Roberts at third. A Brian Giles 6-3 ground out was good enough to plate the run. Padres 1-0.

Cards first – Good chance
Pujols shot a line drive double over the head of centerfielder Mike Cameron that went to the warning track. Encarnacion took an intentional walk with first base open. Scott Rolen continued his slump, as he was retired for the third out.

Padres second – Laboring
Belliard and Pujols tried to catch Blum's grounder with one out, but it squirted through for a single. The next pitch was a double play off the bat of Josh Barfield. Carpenter has already thrown 32 pitches.

Cards second – Jet stream
With one out, Ron Belliard homered into the seats in left to tie the game. Tie 1-1.

Padres third – K sandwich
Carp fanned Williams to start the inning and Giles to end it.

Cards third – Two hits for Albert
Pujols singled through the left side with two out. He was stranded.

Padres fourth – Home team scoring
Josh Bard singled to the left of a diving Belliard with one out. Bard took third as Edmonds bobbled Russell Branyan's single. Incredibly, the scorer did not give Edmonds an error, even though he had to chase the ball down. Must be the president of Jim's fan club up there tonight. Cameron's fly ball to left scored Bard as Duncan's throw home looked like a wet noodle. Blum singled up the middle. Carp fanned Barfield to end it. Pitch count is up to 65. Padres 2-1.

Cards fourth – Belliard delivers again
Rolen was plunked on the hip with a pitch leading off. Edmonds grounded into what should have been a double play, but the second baseman's throw was off line, so the force was all they got. Belliard put the next pitch into the third deck for his second home run of the evening. This one was a two-run shot. Molina singled up the middle. Carpenter's sac bunt failed as Molina was forced out at second base. Miles grounded out. Cards 3-2.

Padres fifth – Carp swimming along
Three more down.

Cards fifth – Two out, two error trouble
Pujols walked with two down. On a failed force attempt with Encarnacion up, catcher Josh Bard threw the ball into centerfield. Then the scene repeated again with Rolen up, as third baseman Branyan committed a fielding error. Edmonds collected a huge two-RBI double to center. Belliard was not given a chance for his third home run with first base open. He was intentionally walked. Molina and Carp made the final two outs. Cards 5-2.

Padres sixth – Bases loaded twice
Leading off, Adrian Gonzalez singled. Branyan walked with one down. Cameron singled past third to load the bases. Blum grounded to Pujols, who came home for the force. Barfield flied out to end the threat.

Cards sixth – RISP
Miles led off with a single to deep short. Pujols replaced him via a force and moved up to second on a wild pitch. But, he was stranded there.

Padres seventh – Carp strung out to dry
Hitting for Williams, Ryan Klesko lined out to Pujols. Roberts reached as Miles couldn't get the ball out of his glove in deep short. Giles doubled to left as defensive replacement So Taguchi couldn't track down the slicing ball. Two in scoring position with one out. Gonzalez then walked to load the bases. The next pitch was doubled down the first base line to score two runs. Hungo noted that Pujols was out of position defensively, potentially missing out on a double play. An unusually pessimistic Hrabosky proclaimed Carp's Cy Young Award and ERA title chances gone. Dan was not so sure as Hungo then quickly moderated his position. Branyan took a called strike three on a full-count offering. A gassed Carpenter made an 0-2 mistake and Cameron shot it into the left field corner to give San Diego the lead. Still, no relief help was offered. Clearly, La Russa has zero confidence in his bullpen. Blum fanned to finally end it. Carpenter's 122 pitch outing was his longest outing of the season. What will he have left in October? Padres 6-5.

Cards seventh – A baserunner not good enough
Edmonds legged out an infield single against Cla Meredith, but was forced at second base for the third out after Belliard fanned.

Padres eighth – Getting away
Adam Wainwright pitched to Gary Bennett. Barfield greeted the tandem with a single. Terrmel Sledge singled to put runners on the corners with no out. La Russa trotted out to have a conference with the middle infielders on the mound. Just after Dan finally noted the Cardinals are playing tight, they almost botched a rundown after Roberts' grounder. They did finally get the lead runner, but Sledge was able to take third. Runners still on the corners with one out. Roberts stole second without a throw. Belliard came home on Giles' grounder, firing home from his knees to get Sledge at the plate. Just barely. Gonzalez singled to collect the RBI. Randy Flores pitched next and finished the inning. Padres 7-5.

Cards eighth – Pujols doesn't come through
Scott Linebrink pitched. Bennett fanned. With the Cards down by two runs, Miles swung on the first pitch and grounded out. What is going on? Taguchi doubled down the left field line. Pujols popped out to center for the third out.

Padres ninth – Hancock holding on
Josh Hancock took the mound and retired his three men.

Cards ninth – Noose tightening
MLB's career saves leader Trevor Hoffman was asked to get the final three outs. Rolen singled with one out and was allowed to take second base. Edmonds fanned swinging. On a full-count pitch, Belliard also whiffed swinging.

In conclusion
Chris Carpenter pitched well enough until the sixth, when he barely escaped. In the seventh, the roof caved in and Tony La Russa chose not to relieve Carp, though the pitcher was clearly on the ropes. The offense again did ok against the Padres' starter, this time Woody Williams, but their pen closed the door for the second consecutive night.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Wed., Sept. 27 vs. Padres: Anthony Reyes (5-7, 4.92) vs. Chris Young (11-5, 3.55) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Thu., Sept. 28 vs. Brewers: Jason Marquis (14-15, 5.80) vs. Doug Davis (10-11, 5.02) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Fri., Sept. 29 vs. Brewers: Jeff Weaver (4-4, 5.21) vs. Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.87) 7:10 p.m. FSNM
Sat., Sept. 30 vs. Brewers: Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.18) vs. Ben Sheets (6-7, 4.05) 12:25 p.m. Big FOX
Sun., Oct. 1 vs. Brewers: Chris Carpenter (15-8, 3.09) vs. Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 3.97) 1:15 p.m. CW11
Regular season ends.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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