Rewind: Cardinals at Giants, Game 1

Every team in the NL West this year has run off some sort of winning streak. Is it now the Giants turn? It's certainly beginning to appear that way after another stellar outing from a Giants starting pitcher and some timely hitting.

The St. Louis Cardinals now know what many others have found out – Jamey Wright is not your typical number five starter.  And the San Francisco Giants are not your typical last-place team.

Wright threw eight stellar innings of one-run ball against a potent offense, and his mates on offense busted open a close game in the eighth for a relatively easy 9-2 Giants victory over the Cardinals at AT&T Park.

Joining the Giants this spring as a non-roster invitee, Wright (5-3) has displayed a pitching brilliance that had previously only showed up in flashes during his prior stints with the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals, and the Kansas City Royals.  With good movement and velocity on his pitches and deft pitching selection, Wright mostly cruised through the Cardinals lineup, needing 102 pitches to complete eight innings.

The same could not be said for Cardinals starting pitcher and former Oakland Athletics star Mark Mulder.  The tall lefthander labored through 6+ innings without his best stuff – his fastball consistently stayed in the mid-80s, with often poor location.

So it was a minor miracle for Mulder (5-2) and the Cardinals that the score remained 1-1 after four innings.  Groundouts by Juan Encarnacion and Barry Bonds in the second and third innings respectively accounted for the scoring, but the Giants squandered some early scoring chances – including leaving the bases loaded in the first inning without scoring, and scoring the lone run in the third after Omar Vizquel was on third with one out and Feliz and Bonds coming to bat.

The Cardinals’ luck began to change, however, in the bottom of the fifth.  Wright helped his own cause by hitting a leadoff double.  Randy Winn then noticed first baseman Albert Pujols playing in, perhaps anticipating a bunt attempt.  Winn’s inside-out smash to right eluded a drawn-in Pujols for a double, plating Wright to give the Giants the lead.  After a Vizquel sacrifice moved Winn to third, Feliz’s groundout manufactured another run for a 3-1 Giants advantage.

The two teams mostly exchanged outs for a few subsequent innings, but then came the bottom of the eighth.  Bonds led off by “inducing” a walk from Cardinals reliever Tyler JohnsonRay Durham then followed with a single that moved pinch-runner Jason Ellison to third.  Steve Finley’s fielder’s choice manufactured yet another run to put the Giants up 4-1.  Then after a sacrifice by Mike Matheny, Cardinals reliever Braden Looper walked Jose Vizcaino to load the bases.

Perhaps sensing an opportunity to blow open the game, Felipe Alou pinch hit Mark Sweeney for Wright.  Alou’s move paid off, almost in grand fashion – Sweeney’s drive hit the top of the high wall in right for a long single, which scored Finley and Vizcaino to push the Giants lead to 6-1.  Then after a Winn sacrifice fly plated another run, Vizquel capped the scoring for the Giants by outdoing Sweeney and hitting a two-run homer into the right field arcade for a commanding 9-1 margin.

The Cardinals scored a run in the top of the ninth against a rusty Armando Benitez, but could not commit any further damage.  All the Cardinals starters with the exception of Encarnacion, second baseman Aaron Miles, and the pitcher’s spot had at least one base hit; however, the loud hits (with the only extra-base hits being doubles by Pujols and Scott Rolen) were few and far between.  Credit a hot Giants starting rotation and that strange fuzzy thing called momentum.

SFDugout’s Player of the Game: Generally, it’s a good problem to have when you have multiple candidates for this honor.  But Wright’s contribution against baseball’s best hitter in Pujols and the rest of his Cardinals mates cannot be emphasized enough.

Don Shin eats, breathes, thinks, and bleeds in Orange and Black. Pac Bell Park officially opened on his 25th birthday (the one year he decided to move out of the Bay Area!!!). For the 2000 playoff drive, he dyed his hair orange while studying in Korea. He watched Game 6 of the '02 World Series at a restaurant in LA, and couldn't finish his meal afterwards. Feel free to write him at to commiserate, cheer, and complain.

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