Tony La Russa switched his leadoff man again by putting second baseman Aaron Miles in that role on Monday. Miles grounded out in his first at-bat against the Rockies in the first inning. Left fielder So Taguchi, starting in place of Chris Duncan against the left-handed Francis, struck out swinging in the next at-bat. First baseman Albert Pujols became the first baserunner of the game when he drew a walk but was promptly thrown out at second base on a steal attempt to end the first frame.
In the second inning, Reyes was hit hard, but only one of those hits did any damage. First baseman Todd Helton did the damage by leading off with a solo home run to right field.
Reyes gave up a leadoff base hit for the second straight inning in the top of the third when Omar Quintanilla lined a single into right field. With two out, Quintanilla advanced to second on Reyes' first wild pitch of the season. Tulowitzki would take advantage of the Rockies' first runner in scoring position with an RBI double that bounced over the head of Ludwick in right field.
The Rockies doubled their lead in the third inning but the Cardinals looked like they could get a little bit of offense going. Catcher Yadier Molina led it off with a base hit, but a controversial play produced a double play when Eckstein hit a grounder to the right side that was picked up by Quintanilla and thrown to Tulowitzki who was covering at second base for the first out. His throw to first for the double play was late, but the umpire ruled that Molina deliberately slid into Tulowitzki to break up the play. Replays confirmed the ruling, as Eckstein was called out at first for interference. Tony La Russa argued the call but there was no denying that the ruling was correct.
In the home half of the fourth inning, Miles became the Cardinals' second straight leadoff baserunner with a walk. He advanced to third on Taguchi's base hit to left. Pujols looked great at the plate by watching several close pitches miss the strike zone in earning a walk to load the bases. Rolen got underneath a fastball and popped up to shallow left field for the first out, but it was too shallow for Miles to advance from third. Recent call-up Ryan Ludwick came through with one out as he slapped a single up the middle for an RBI to close the gap to 2-1. Edmonds dug in at the plate and lined one right into pitcher Jeff Francis' side, allowing Taguchi to reach home plate and tie the game. Edmonds would be thrown out at first base on the play and Molina flew out to end the inning, but the damage was already done. Francis would stay in the game despite being hit by the ball.
Anthony Reyes gave way to reliever Randy Flores in the seventh inning, and the latter would not figure into the decision despite retiring ten straight batters.
The top of the ninth brought recently called-up reliever Brian Falkenborg to the mound. He got Finley to ground out to first base, but the next at-bat brought more controversy to the game. Troy Tulowitzki hit what appeared to be a home run, but the umpires ruled it a double. Colorado manager Clint Hurdle went to argue the call and he appeared to be correct in his argument, but the battle grew very heated and Hurdle was thrown out of the game. Holliday walked in his at-bat, and Tony La Russa had seen enough. Falkenborg was immediately removed from the game for reliever Tyler Johnson.
Initially, Johnson did a great job of containing the Rockies after the break on the Tulowitzki double by striking out Helton, but La Russa had him intentionally walk Atkins in order to face the left-handed Brad Hawpe, but with the bases loaded and a full count with two outs, Johnson missed and walked in tie-breaking run.
Colorado closer Brian Fuentes had the task of facing the Cardinals in a save opportunity, and he promptly hit Taguchi with a pitch. The stage was set as Pujols stepped up to the batter's box, but the star first baseman hit a foul pop-up for the first out. Rolen was then hit by a pitch after a lengthy at-bat and Ludwick got a chance to increase his RBI total on the night with Taguchi in scoring position.
La Russa went with a big risk and sent Taguchi to third, and despite a close play that could have gone either way, Taguchi was safe with the stolen base, his first of the season. With one out and runners on the corners, Ludwick had a great chance to tie the game, but Fuentes jammed him and he popped out to the first baseman. With two outs and runners on the corners, Jim Edmonds stepped in and looked to be the hero, but hit a deep line drive to centerfield for the final out of another disappointing loss for the 12-18 Cardinals.
- This is the sixth time this season the Cardinals have played a game with a final score of 3-2.
- A big difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's Cardinals is clutch hitting. Whether it be Albert Pujols, David Eckstein, Scott Spiezio, or even So Taguchi, the Cardinals had clutch hitting in the regular season in 2006. That isn't there this year.
- The Cardinals retired 17 straight batters at one time, an impressive stat for this team, and Reyes' ten straight may just help turn around his season. He didn't have the really bad inning, just two one-run innings. He got over Helton's early home run very nicely.
- Many will second guess La Russa for walking the bases loaded in the ninth which ended up providing the game-winning run for Colorado, but the Cardinals should have already been down 3-2 to begin with. Tulowitzki's double was clearly a home run and the Rockies did not even need the walked-in run in the ninth.
Brady Holzhauer can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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