Game Observations – Fri. 9/29 – Cards 10-5

The St. Louis Cardinals won for the second time in ten games Friday night as they bested the Milwaukee Brewers by a 10-5 score at Busch Stadium. Jeff Weaver gave the team five good innings. Albert Pujols hit a three-run home run and Preston Wilson had a two-run shot. The 82-77 Cards lead over the Astros in the NL Central is back to a game-and-a-half and their magic number is two.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Weaver pitched better than his line – three earned runs in 5-2/3 innings on seven hits and a walk, but two of the runs came in during his final inning. Randy Flores struggled, giving up two home runs, but Josh Kinney, Braden Looper and Brad Thompson pitched well.

The offense had 13 hits, paced by Albert Pujols' three-run home run and Preston Wilson's two-run shot. Juan Encarnacion had three singles and a double. Scott Rolen delivered two singles and a double and scored three times.

One year ago today
On September 29, 2005, the Cardinals were off, following being swept by Houston at home and preparing to close out the regular season and Busch Stadium II against the Reds.

The match-up
Jeff Weaver (4-4, 5.21) vs. Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.87). Double lefty problems as the Cardinals face their second straight lefty and Weaver is pitching, who has "held" left-handers to a .346 batting average this season. At least the Brewers have only three lefties in their line-up – Tony Gwynn, Jr, Prince Fielder and Geoff Jenkins.

The line-up
Eckstein (SS), Taguchi (CF), Pujols, Encarnacion (RF), Rolen, Belliard, Wilson (LF), Molina and Weaver.
In: David Eckstein. Out: Aaron Miles. With the return of Eckstein, Preston Wilson was dropped to seventh.

On to the game…

Brewers first – In a hole again
Tony Graffanino singled with one out. Bill Hall blooped a ball into center that dropped in front of Taguchi to put runners on the corners with two out. Jenkins singled to left on a full count to score the run. Two were stranded. Brewers 1-0.

Cards first – Down in order
Pujols grounded out to end the inning.

Brewers second – Three down with complications
Leading off, David Bell was nicked by pitch, but was erased in a 4-6-3.

Cards second – Lead taken
On cue, while Al and Dan were heaping accolades on below-average third baseman David Bell, he muffed Rolen's ground ball, enabling the runner to reach. Preston Wilson homered to left. Cards 2-1.

Brewers third – Defensive help
Encarnacion made a nice running catch for the first out near the line against Graffanino on the way to a perfect inning.

Cards third – Adding on
Eckstein was hit on the knee by a pitch with one out. He was forced at second on a fielders choice by Taguchi. Encarnacion singled to left enabling Taguchi to slide home under the tag. Two runners were stranded when Rolen flied out. Cards 3-1.

Brewers fourth – D, bad and good
Corey Hart singled to right center with one out. So committed an error as a drive by Bell to deep center clanged off his glove. Two in scoring position with one out. A line drive to Belliard was turned into a huge double play as he flipped to Eckstein at the bag.

Cards fourth – Quiet
Belliard struck out on the way to an in-order frame.

Brewers fifth – Looking strong
Weaver fanned Graffanino for the third out of a 1-2-3 inning.

Cards fifth – Breaking it open
Weaver walked with no out. Eckstein laid down a perfect bunt for a base hit as Bell couldn't handle the roller. Taguchi grounded into another force at second. Runners at the corners with one out for Pujols, who blasted a ball into the seats in left center. It was his 48th of the season. Encarnacion sliced a double into the right center gap and scored on another double into left center by Rolen. Wilson was intentionally walked and Molina made them pay as he ripped an RBI double into the left field corner. I am glad Ned Yost kept Capuano in the game, but I have no idea why. Cards 8-1.

Brewers sixth – Two-out trouble ends Weaver's night
Geoff Jenkins walked with two out. Hart shot a home run into left. Bell singled past a diving Eckstein. That led to Weaver leaving to a standing ovation. Josh Kinney relieved and got the final out. Cards 8-3.

Cards sixth – Into the pen
Dennis Sarfate pitched and retired the Cards in order. Pujols popped up to end the inning.

Brewers seventh – Strikeouts
Kinney struck out two of his three.

Cards seventh – Two more runs
Encarnacion and Rolen singled leading off. Belliard and Molina each doubled past third as each plated a run. Dan Kolb took over and got the third out. Cards 10-3.

Brewers eighth – Flores gopherballs
Randy Flores pitched. Prince Fielder homered to right center, then Bill Hall hit one to left. Braden Looper finished up the inning. Cards 10-5.

Cards eighth – A hit
Derrick Turnbow collected two outs before Encarnacion singled to center. Rolen singled to right, putting runners at the corners before Belliard fanned.

Brewers ninth – Over and done
Brad Thompson collected the final three outs. Rolen ended the game with a diving catch.

In conclusion
Jeff Weaver was a pleasant surprise, allowing just one run in five innings before surrendering two more in the sixth. Five runs scored on Preston Wilson's and Albert Pujols' home runs.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
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 - maybe.

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

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