Schmidt needed a win as bad as his team needed one. Coming off his worst start of the year, a 3.2 inning embarrassment in Cincinnati where he gave up seven runs, the Schmidt of old was counted on to end a three-game slide. Schmidt held up his end of the bargain with seven innings of shutout ball, and his teammates got a little help from those in red, and the hated umpires in blue.
St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa has nothing much to do these days. At 78-45 the Cardinals have the best record in baseball and are possibly better than the pennant winning club of 2004, so LaRussa doesnt need to think about injuries to his best players, such as All-Star third baseman Scott Rolens season-ending shoulder surgery, or the revolving disabled list door that just spit out slugger Larry Walker and regular catcher Yadier Molina. Outfielder Reggie Sanders is still on the DL, and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was hospitalized overnight with a knee infection. LaRussa took a what, me worry? stance into the final game of this three game series and trotted out an odd lineup. No Albert Pujols, no Walker, and So Taguchi hitting third? Whether or not LaRussas B lineup was the sole cause for four errors committed on the afternoon on the Cardinals side, the afternoon was littered with poor fielding and questionable umpiring but rescued by good starting pitching.
The day got off to a strange start when Jim Edmonds stepped in to face Schmidt in the first inning. Schmidts command and velocity were off from the get-go, and Edmonds nearly got the business end of a fastball in his helmet. Following his at-bat, a grounder to JT Snow at first, he jawed at home plate umpire Jim Culbruth. This would not be the first instance of trouble that brought LaRussa from the dugout. Backup third baseman Scott Seabol smoked a ball down the third base line, nearly clipping the third base umpire. Eric Cooper had to leap up with legs splayed open to avoid the ball, and he called the ball foul. Replays show the call was close, but incorrect, as the ball bounced inches within the line fair, and he got an earful from St. Louis third base coach Jose Oquendo. In the fifth inning, LaRussa found himself out of the dugout again, for after dragging Oquendo away from an ejection he found it necessary to question Coopers call on Omar Vizquels single. Vizquel dropped a bloop in right field and Taguchi misplayed it, allowing the shortstop to reach second on the error. The throw was there and the tag was close, but Cooper didnt buy it. Between innings Edmonds was finally shown the door for complaining again, and LaRussa was caught in his own revolving door of sorts, spinning in and out of the dugout at the whim of his players and coaches.
As for scoring, the Giants got to Suppan in the fourth inning. Suppan handled the Giants lineup deftly through three innings, allowing one base runner until Moises Alou reached on a throwing error by Seabol. The airmailed throw opened the flood gates. Ray Durham followed with a single that pushed Alou to second. Pedro Feliz stepped in and hit a deep fly to right field, which unfortunately bounced up and over the wall for a ground rule double. Edgardo Alfonzo brought them in with a single and advanced to second with former Cardinal catcher Mike Matheny at the plate. An error by the second baseman Abraham Nunez allowed Matheny to reach first base. Schmidts fly out to right mattered not, the Giants were on the board.
One more run was tacked onto Suppans record in the sevenththe only earned run of the four he gave upwhen Matheny scored after leading off with the walk. Schmidt used his good hitting skills and penchant for messing with people when he pulled the bat back on a bunt attempt. He slapped the ball into left-center to put two on for Randy Winn. The Giants chased Suppan and with left-fielder Ray King in the game ran the score to 4-0 on Winns single.
Schmidt left after seven innings with a win seemingly in his back pocket. Of course with these Giants, nothings easy, and nothings guaranteed. Jeremy Accardo relieved Schmidt and allowed back-to-back singles defensive replacement Hector Luna and Scott Seabol, Seabol picking up the RBI on Luna. The came the big mans turn in the ninthArmando Benitez in his first save situation since the near-catastrophic hamstring injury he sustained on April 26. He made it interesting, allowing a single to Nunez to lead off the bottom of the ninth and a walk to Einar Diaz before freezing pinch-hitter Larry Walker on a called strike three, and getting David Eckstein to fly out to center. LaRussa had had enough, apparently, for he called upon Pujols to pinch hit. The man never disappoints, unless youre on the opposing team, and he delivered an RBI single. Benitez did manage to get Taguchi swinging for the save, and the win, and the Giants can go home after a 6-7roadtrip. The team opens Heritage Week with Irish Night 2 Monday at SBC Park at 7:15.
SFDugout Player of the Game: Despite Jason Schmidts struggles and problems with injury, he shows why hes the ace of a staff constantly in flux. His day started off poor and shaky but he fought back to regain control and velocity and shut out the Cardinals through seven innings, even if it was LaRussas patchwork lineup.
Game notes: The Giants placed interim closer Tyler Walker on the DL with shoulder soreness. Hed be experiencing pain over the weekend, and it did not lessen. Benitezs return made it possible to put Walker on the DL. Brian Cooper was recalled from Fresno to fill the spot vacated by Walker other Heritage Week events include Italian Heritage Night on Tuesday and Jewish Heritage Night on Wednesday the Giants begin the home stand on a good note by throwing young left-hander Noah Lowry at the Philadelphia Phillies. Lowry has kept up his post-All Star tear with three wins in his last three starts, allowing two earned runs and striking out twenty-one batters.
Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 23rd season of fandom and first where she's had the honor to write for the Giants on SFDugout.com. Love/hate mail can be sent to email@example.com, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.
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