Game Observations – Sat. 9/30 – Cards 3-2

The St. Louis Cardinals won for the second time in a row Saturday afternoon as they edged the Milwaukee Brewers by a 3-2 score at Busch Stadium. Jeff Suppan gave the team seven solid innings and Scott Spiezio provided a clutch bases-clearing triple in the eighth. The 83-77 Cards lead over the Astros in the NL Central is 1.5 games and their all-important magic number is one.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Suppan pitched well, taking a shutout into the seventh, but allowed two runs. Tyler Johnson earned a hold and Adam Wainwright collected the impressive save, his third of the season.

The offense had many chances, with runners in scoring position stranded in five of the first six innings. Scott Spiezio was the hero, shooting an eighth inning bases-loaded triple into the corner, scoring all three Cardinals runs.

One year ago today
On September 30, 2005, the Cardinals pounded out 17 hits and were helped by five errors in a 12-6 win over the Reds at Busch. Albert Pujols hit his 40th home run of the season and 200th career in style, a grand slam in the seventh inning. He tied his career high with five RBI. Leadoff hitter David Eckstein went 4-for-5 and drove in two and Mark Grudzielanek was 3-for-5. Al Reyes picked up the win in relief.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.18) vs. Ben Sheets (6-7, 4.05).

The line-up
Eckstein (SS), Duncan (RF), Pujols, Wilson (LF), Rolen, Edmonds, Belliard, Molina and Suppan.
In: Chris Duncan, Jim Edmonds.
Out: So Taguchi, Juan Encarnacion.

On to the game…

Brewers first – Baserunner
Prince Fielder drew a two-out walk but was stranded.

Cards first – RISP missed
Sheets blew a high fastball past Duncan to strike him out. Pujols slammed a ball off the base of the wall, but because the ball was hit so hard, Pujols was very, very close to being out at second base. Wilson fanned on three pitches, including a called strike three.

Brewers second – Leadoff double
Geoff Jenkins doubled leading off and took third on a fly ball out. Bell lined out to Pujols. With two out, Mike Rivera was intentionally walked to face Sheets, who grounded out on the first pitch. This looks like a cautious move by La Russa.

Cards second – Three Sheets outs
Rolen struck out on the way to a 1-2-3 inning.

Brewers third – Yadi's arm
Gwynn singled leading off, but was caught in a pitchout when trying to steal and was run down for the out.

Cards third – Another great chance
Suppan hit a chopper to Bell at third, who tried and failed to backhand the ball. The home team scorer gave Suppan the gift single. Duncan singled to put runners on the corners with two out. But, Pujols flied out to right.

Brewers fourth – Soup cooking
Hart struck out to end a perfect inning.

Cards fourth – Third chance
Wilson singled leading off and with one out, stole second base. Neither Edmonds nor Belliard could get the run in. In three of the four innings so far, the Cards have wasted a runner in scoring position.

Brewers fifth – Cruising
Two ground outs and a popup.

Cards fifth – Four RISP innings in five
Suppan singled past a diving Hall at short. What a hitter! Eckstein threw his bat at a pitchout and should have been called out on interference, but Suppan was still dead between first and second. Then, Eckstein doubled into the left field corner. Figures. Duncan worked a nine-pitch walk to get Pujols up. He failed again, grounding out.

Brewers sixth – In a groove
Suppan continues his strong pitching, having retired 11 in a row now.

Cards sixth – Another great chance
Wilson singled to right center leading off. He stole second on a breaking ball to Rolen, who fanned shortly thereafter on another. Edmonds struck out, but the ball evaded the catcher Rivera, putting runners on the corners. Belliard fanned and Molina grounded out. Sooner or later, the Cards will run out of opportunities.

Brewers seventh – Wrong guys score
Geoff Jenkins singled with one out, breaking Suppan's consecutive outs string at 12. Corey Hart then singled up the middle. Suppan pitched very carefully to Rivera, walking him on four pitches to lead the bases. Duncan the non-player came out to talk. Pinch-hitter Jeff Cirillo singled up the middle on a 1-2 count. The throw home by Edmonds was good, but not in time. Why didn't the Cards go after the catcher, instead of the pinch-hitter? At least they got Sheets out of the game, though it was not surprising since he had already thrown exactly 100 pitches. Brewers 2-0.

Cards seventh – No win for Suppan
Jose Vizcaino pinch hit for Suppan against reliever Jose Capellan and popped out on one pitch. Tyler Johnson warmed up as outs two and three were recorded.

Brewers eighth – Holding
Johnson came in to pitch as Braden Looper warmed. Bill Hall walked with two out, but was stranded.

Cards eighth – Spiezio is clutch
Pujols singled to right, but Wilson fanned. Rolen doubled past third base to put two in scoring position. Capellan exited in favor of lefty Brian Shouse to face Edmonds. La Russa countered with Juan Encarnacion as the pinch-hitter. He was walked intentionally to load the bases. The Brewers brought in closer Francisco Cordero. Belliard flied to right but Pujols screwed up and was halfway down the line so couldn't tag up. That cost his team a run – temporarily . Scott Spiezio hit for Molina. He shot a ball into the right field corner. Brady Clark bobbled the ball, turning a double into a three-run triple. Cards 3-2.

Brewers ninth – The new closer
Adam Wainwright is the closer. He fanned Hart leading off, but walked Gabe Gross with two out. When the third out was collected, the entire team sprinted from the dugout for the obligatory high-fives.

In conclusion
The Cardinals had runners in scoring position in five of the first six innings but couldn't score. Jeff Suppan pitched superbly in his most important start of the year, but one bad pitch to Jeff Cirillo in the seventh made the difference. Fortunately, Scott Spiezio's bases-clearing double in the eighth saved the game and perhaps his team's season. Adam Wainwright looks to be the answer for Jason Isringhausen's absence. Even if the Astros win out, the Cardinals can clinch with a win on Sunday.

Upcoming action – probable starters (times CDT)
Sun., Oct. 1 vs. Brewers: Chris Carpenter (15-8, 3.09) vs. Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 3.97) 1:15 p.m. CW11
Mon., Oct. 2 vs. Giants (make-up game if required): Anthony Reyes vs. Matt Morris 2:05 p.m.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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