Sunday's game was supposed to be a pitchers' duel, but instead, it was a tour de force put on by the Mets' stellar pitching, offense, and defense and the Cardinals' lack thereof. Carpenter went six innings in his season debut, giving up nine of New York's twelve hits and five of their runs. He walked one and struck out three, but overall looked uncomfortable on the mound. While it was apparent that the tension of Opening Day affected both sides, it seemed even more obvious that the Mets were able to feed off their adrenaline.
In the top of the third, Mets' first baseman Carlos Delgado smashed a two-run double, scoring catcher Paul Lo Duca and center fielder Carlos Beltran. In the next frame, the Mets put up three more runs, two coming off a Lo Duca single and another coming from a Beltran base hit. The Mets put up their sixth and final run in the top of the ninth inning, when Lo Duca singled again, scoring David Newhan from third. Lo Duca was the player of the game, going 2-for-5 with three RBI and making several solid defensive plays behind the plate.
The Cardinals had several opportunities to put runs on the board, but only once was St. Louis able to capitalize. In the bottom of the third, Adam Kennedy tripled to deep right-center. Kennedy was safe at third after the throw ricocheted off of Mets' third baseman David Wrights' glove. The next at-bat resulted in a Chris Carpenter bunt - an attempted suicide squeeze that dropped straight down about three inches in front of home plate, allowing Lo Duca to catch Kennedy between home plate and third base.
St. Louis had two more great chances to put up runs, but a few noteworthy defensive plays put those chances to rest. One such opportunity came in the bottom of the sixth, when pinch hitter Skip Schumaker singled to lead off the inning. His base hit was followed by a David Eckstein double that rolled all the way to the left field corner. Eckstein's two-base hit scored Schumaker from first base, putting the Cardinals' lone run on the board. Preston Wilson immediately singled off Glavine in the next at-bat, but an amazing throw from Beltran in center field caught Eckstein at the plate as Lo Duca held onto the ball despite the shortstop's jarring slide. Third base coach Jose Oquendo waved Eckstein in, knowing that the team would have to be aggressive in order to come back from being down 5-1. Albert Pujols walked following that fine outfield assist, and Scott Rolen was hit by a pitch in his at-bat, loading the bases up for the Cardinals, but ultimately Yadier Molina's pop-up to shortstop would end in the inning, allowing the Mets to escape unscathed.
The Cardinals once again loaded up the bases in the bottom of the eighth inning when pinch hitter Aaron Miles walked, Eckstein singled, and Albert Pujols walked for the second time. Wilson struck out in between Eckstein and Pujols' at-bats, setting up for a Rolen double-play ball (a great play by New York second baseman Jose Valentin and an even better throw from second base by shortstop Jose Reyes).
The Cardinals will face the Mets in the second game of this series on Tuesday. The scheduled starting pitchers for that game are Kip Wells for the Cardinals and Orlando Hernandez. The game starts at 7:10 P.M. Central time.
-One concern coming out of this game is the play of Chris Carpenter. He did not look comfortable facing this Mets' lineup, and at times he lost almost all command. This was not the Carpenter of '05 or '06. This could be because he is still working on his changeup or even a case of opening day nervousness, but for whatever reason, Carpenter never was able to settle in and just force the Mets' hitters into steady outs.
-For the second consecutive game, I find myself wondering why Chris Duncan was not in the starting lineup. Of course, La Russa may have been doing a little advanced scouting, now putting Duncan up against the tough left-hander in Glavine, but there were opportunities in the game for Duncan to pinch hit to replace Preston Wilson or So Taguchi in the outfield when there was no sight of him. Duncan is one of the most legitimate power hitters on the team and he will not be able to improve against left-handed pitching unless he faces it more often. Barring an unknown injury, I can not see any reason why La Russa would have kept Duncan out of the game.
-After a little bit of worry about the play of David Eckstein in the Civil Rights Game on Saturday, the Cardinals' shortstop proved himself as the Cardinals most prepared hitter against the Mets, going 3-4 with the sole RBI. He was able to regularly make contact and get on base.
-Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen did not produce much of any offense in Sunday night's game, but those are two players not to worry about. They will put up their numbers as time goes on, and I expect bigger games from both of them come Tuesday night.
-Skip Schumaker deserves a legitimate look for the corner outfield spot currently occupied by Preston Wilson. Wilson had the one single, but struck out twice and left three men on base. Schumaker had a pinch hit single to lead off the only inning in which the Cardinals were able to put a run, and Schumaker was the runner who scored.
-Yadier Molina looked much like he did in the playoffs at the plate against the Mets, going 2-for-4 on the game. Jim Edmonds also collected a hit, going 1-for-3. As for pitching, Tyler Johnson came in and went three up three down against the heart of the Mets' lineup, showing hope that after a rocky Spring Training, he can still come around and help the bullpen out significantly.
-The Cardinals biggest overall problem coming out of Sunday's game is leaving runners on base. As a whole, the team stranded 19 runners on the base paths. A few small mistakes cost the Cardinals a couple of runs, including Eckstein's collision at the plate, Carpenter's bad bunt, and a couple of bad at-bats in clutch situations. The only starting players to look even slightly comfortable at the plate were Eckstein, Kennedy, Molina, and Pujols (Pujols took a lot of pitches, and laid off a few hittable ones in order to draw two walks on the game).
-Tuesday's game should be a true test for Cardinals' starting pitcher Kip Wells, who faces the most potent lineup in the National League, if not all of baseball. As for the Mets, Orlando Hernandez is on the mound, someone the Cardinals should be able to hit a little better than the impeccable Tom Glavine.
-Speaking of pitchers, this was Glavine's 291st career win. Congratulations to him, and his 300th victory should come this season. On another note, Chris Carpenter's ERA as of his first start is a whopping 7.50. Of course, that is not as bad as reliever Brad Thompson, who pitched to five batters, giving up three hits and one run while obtaining a huge 9.00 ERA in the process. Tyler Johnson and Randy Flores both pitched one perfect inning in the game, reminding us that the bullpen does have potential.
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