Civil Rights Game – Cardinals 5, Indians 1

Couldn't attend the Civil Rights Game in person? No problem, as our Brady Holzhauer did and files his report, the first of a season-long series of game recaps exclusively for subscribers of stlcardinals.scout.com.

The first annual Civil Rights Game in Memphis, Tennessee proved to be a wonderful tribute to the history of African-Americans in the game of Major League Baseball. Yours truly was present to witness the game, which featured a short documentary by film-maker Spike Lee and the St. Louis Cardinals' final tune-up game against the Cleveland Indians before the regular season opener Sunday against the New York Mets. Rain threatened to delay the start, but it let up just before game time. AutoZone Park slowly filled with fans anxious to get the game underway.

As MLB Commissioner Bud Selig watched, the Cardinals and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright took care of business in the early innings, defeating the Indians by a score of 5-1. Sporting their throw-back jerseys, the Cardinals scored three runs in the second inning, a slew of hits capped off by an Adam Wainwright two-RBI double. So Taguchi was able to plate his first runner of the day with a sacrifice fly.

Up to that point, Wainwright had dominated on the mound, allowing no hits through the first three frames. The Cardinals starting lineup was able to get men on base and bring them home with ease throughout the first half of the game. After Albert Pujols singled in the first, it seemed like he would have a fairly decent day, but it was in the third inning that he really came alive.

Jeremy Sowers, the starting pitcher for the Indians, is no joke on the mound. He had already given up three runs to the Cardinals but he could easily overcome that by pitching well the rest of the day. When Albert Pujols stepped up to the plate, he had a swagger about his approach that was not there in his previous at-bat. Pujols and Sowers looked each other in the eyes and the next thing Sowers was doing was staring into left field, where the baseball was soon to land. Pujols' shot was his second home run of the spring, both coming in the last four or five games. It was not a towering home run, but it got out of there quickly, putting the Cards up 4-0 at the time. After a few more base hits and an error on Cleveland first baseman Travis Hafner, So Taguchi came up to the plate again and delivered the same outcome as his previous at-bat, an RBI sac-fly.

Cleveland was able to get one run on the board after a few consecutive at-bats started off by a double off the bat of Hafner. After that, neither team was able to put much of anything together, as pitching became the key element to the game. The Cardinals relied on Wainwright for a few more innings, and although he did struggle a little bit with his command later on, he was able to get out of a few walks and continue on his way to allowing only one run on the day. He pitched extremely well, yet this was not even his best outing of the spring. The future is bright for Wainwright, and he impressed in Memphis on Saturday.

The Cardinals finished off the game as Brian Falkenborg got the save. It was a good all-around performance for the Cardinals, who still closed out the game even after replacing most of their starters with prospects and minor-leaguers.

Game Notes and Observations:

-The crowd was slim at first, especially with the steady downpour of rain that lasted from 1:30 P.M. to nearly 4:20 P.M., but by the first pitch it was nearly packed. A healthy crowd of Cardinals fans came to Memphis to support their big-league club in its last spring training game. The crowd was energetic and it was exciting to see such a hefty amount of St. Louis fans find their way to AutoZone Park.

-Jim Edmonds continued his comeback from shoulder and toe surgery over the off-season Saturday, hitting a single and scoring on a run on Wainwright's double. He looked good at the plate and was able to move around on the base-paths a little better than I expected. He did not stay in the game for long, but a little bit more than in his last start.

-Chris Duncan did not start the game Saturday but did pinch hit late in the game and remained for a couple more at-bats. While I have no official word as to why Duncan was scratched from the start, I would assume it has to do with his web-gem worthy play in the outfield Friday night when the Cardinals played the Redbirds. After catching the ball, Duncan crashed into the bullpen door, busting it open. He may have been sore, but he did play Saturday. He did not look good in his few at-bats, swinging and missing a lot. It's something to keep an eye on.

-Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright are the two players of the game. Pujols went 2-for-2 at the plate with a single, a solo home run (around 330 feet to left field), and one walk. Wainwright hit a two-RBI double and gave up only one run in his appearance on the mound. Pujols looked like a man among boys out there, and he appears absolutely to be in mid-season form.

-One question I find myself asking is where Jason Isringhausen was Saturday. Minor League reliever Brian Falkenborg came in to finish off the game while the Cardinals were up 5-1. Maybe Dave Duncan did not want to risk injury in a game that was most likely over at the end of the third inning or maybe Izzy isn't yet ready to go two games in a row.

-There were two defensive plays of the game, both coming in the later innings. The first came on a high-bouncing grounder to third base that Scott Rolen barehanded before firing to first for the out. The second came on a soaring line drive to left-center field where So Taguchi (who had moved over to replace Jim Edmonds defensively from left field) pulled a Jim Edmonds-like catch himself, diving through the air and tumbling acrobatically while making the amazing catch. Both plays would have been web gems, but Taguchi's diving grab was by far the best play I've ever seen him make.

-The pre-game ceremonies were very nice and fitting for the celebration of the Civil Rights movement and the history of African-American players in baseball. Those present included Frank Robinson, Lou Brock, and Spike Lee. Bud Selig himself took part in the ceremonies.

-For those who have not visited AutoZone Park in Memphis, it would be a good idea to go. Going into this game I had no idea what to expect but I have come away very impressed. The architecture involved is very similar to that of the new Busch Stadium, a brick wall with green trim and roofing. I hope to attend a few Redbirds' games this summer.

-The Cardinals as a whole were extremely impressive in their final spring training game. Adam Wainwright proved himself as a bona fide star in the rotation and basically everyone but David Eckstein and Chris Duncan were able to produce quality at-bats. Eckstein did not impress, grounding out in most of his at-bats and stranding four runners, while Duncan struck out once in two at-bats.

-For opening day Sunday, expect an explosion of offense from the Cardinals, because had the starting lineup stayed in the game longer, this game may have gotten out of hand. The Indians did not keep their starting lineups in for long either, so the game leveled off after around the fifth or sixth inning. Sunday's game should kick-start one of the best baseball seasons in quite some time, especially with all the subplots (including Barry Bonds' historic stab at the all-time career home run record).



Editor's note: If you enjoyed this Game Recap, there will soon be much more where this came from! Brady Holzhauer's exclusive reports will be filed following Cardinals games all season long, but from here on out, you will need to be a subscriber to stlcardinals.scout.com to read them.

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