Walton's Observations – Friday - Cards 2-1 (11)

Eckstein and Hairston disagreed on the bases.

The Cardinals squeezed the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in 11 innings Friday night.

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The St. Louis Cardinals shaded the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in 11 innings in front of 49,840 at Busch Stadium Friday night. The Cards took the first of the three-game weekend series as their record improved to 62-34. Their NL Central lead over the Astros remains 12 games while the Cubs fell 14 back.

Chris Carpenter tried for a major-league leading 15th win against Carlos Zambrano. The two were superb as they dueled through nine one-run innings before turning it over to the bullpen. To that point, the Cubs had eight hits, while the Cards scratched out only three. Al Reyes collected the win in relief.

John Rodriguez hit a solo home run in the first inning. John Mabry tripled leading off the home eleventh and the winning run scored on a beautiful squeeze bunt by David Eckstein.

Think Yadi isn't missed?
The Cards' record with Molina – 51-22 (.699). Without him 10-12 (.455). Staff ERA with Molina - 3.24 and without, 3.88. Get well really soon!

Forsch on the clock
Old #31, Bob Forsch, got the countdown clock honor for Friday.

Pitchers carrying the hitters
The Birds are batting just .251 (fourth from worst in the National League) with 76 runs scored after leading the League with a .287 batting average and 146 runs scored in June. On the other side of the ledger, the staff ERA of 2.50 in July is best in MLB. Redbird pitchers have given up just 39 walks this month, the fewest in baseball. Based on all the recent injuries, don't look for this imbalance to change any time soon.

Homestand ending
This weekend, the Cardinals are wrapping up a ten-game homestand with the final three-game series versus the Chicago Cubs. Coming into Friday, the Birds are 5-2 on the homestand, completing a three-game sweep over Houston to start the stretch and splitting four games with the Brewers.

Recent local history positive
The last year the Cubs had a season edge in wins in St. Louis was back in 1995. The Cards' record is 32-9 at Busch over the last six seasons against the Cubbies and 189-133 there overall.

WGN broadcasters clueless
I didn't think I'd miss Chip and Dip, but here you go. During the second inning, the 2005 Cubbies TV crew, Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, said that Edmonds' arm is average but he gets a good jump on the ball. What a crock. Quoting the STATS, Inc. Scouting Notebook, Edmonds has "a strong, accurate throwing arm that annually produces double-figure totals in outfield assists." Go ahead and run on him, losers!

Friday's lineup
Eckstein, Rodriguez (lf), Pujols, Edmonds, Walker, Grudzielanek, Nunez (3b), Mahoney and Carpenter. Three regulars are on the disabled list – Molina, Rolen and Sanders.

On to the game…

Cubs first – Lotsa Lee booing
Derrek Lee doubled off the left field wall with two outs. He was stranded.

Cards first – J-Rod with the bat
Eckstein worked Zambrano for ten pitches before flying out to short center. J-Rod went down and took a 3-1 fastball out to right center, 418 feet away. Albert fanned for only the 39th time this season and so did Edmonds. Cards 1-0.

Cubs second – Two on
Neifi Perez singled through the right side with two down. Michael Barrett walked and that was it.

Cards second – A hit
Nunez singled with two out.

Cubs third – Manufacturing a run
Leading off, Jerry Hairston, Jr. slammed a liner over Edmonds' head for a standup double. Todd Walker moved him over. Lee's grounder brought the run home. Tie 1-1.

Cubs fourth – J-Rod with the leather
J-Rod made a nice running catch up against the wall in left center to snare Todd Hollandworth's shot for the second out.

Cards fourth – KK again
Albert and Edmonds fanned for the second time in a row.

Cubs fifth – Two on, none in
Zambrano reached via a bad-bounce infield single with one out. Hairston followed with a single to left. A 4-6-3 off the bat of Todd Walker ended it.

Cards fifth - Gruz tries
Grudz started the frame with a single but didn't get any help from the bottom of the lineup.

Cubs sixth – Two more stranded
Aramis Ramirez' ball to left got away from J-Rod, but despite the fact there were two outs, Ramirez was dogging it and could not take second base. Hollandsworth's walk put him there, anyway. But, that was it.

Cards sixth – Jeromy skying
With two out, Jeromy Burnitz leapt up, sort of, and pulled back what would have been a Pujols solo home run.

Cubs seventh – Carp living dangerously again
Zambrano hit a first-pitch double into the right field gap with one out. Hairston singled up the middle past a diving Grudz to put runners at the corners. On another inning-ending double play, Eckstein took exception to Hairston's slide into second, when the latter grabbed Eck's leg coming in. Words were exchanged, but it didn't get out of hand.

Cards eighth – Zambrano more than ok
With one out, the trainer, former Cards assistant Mark O'Neal and pitching coach Larry Rothschild came out to check on Zambrano, but he said he was ok. As the inning ended, 12 Cards in a row have been retired. They have only three hits while Zambrano has struck out 11.

Cards ninth – No win in nine
Eck fanned for #12, a new career high for Zambrano. J-Rod and Pujols went down, making it 15 in a row retired by Zambrano. Extra innings are ahead.

Cubs tenth – Izzy time scary as usual
Jason Isringhausen took over for Carpenter. With one down, Hairston collected his fourth consecutive hit, as Rodriguez missed a diving catch. Eckstein had trouble with the relay as Hairston slid into third with a triple. A grounder to short for the second out required Hairston to stay at third. After Duncan came out, Lee was walked intentionally to get to Burnitz. Lee promptly stole second base before ball four to Burnitz. There was no place to put Aramis Ramirez, but he ground out short to first to end the inning.

Cards tenth – Promising start
Glendon Rusch came in to pitch. Edmonds led off with a single and Walker took his place on a fielders' choice grounder to second. After Grudz popped up, Nunez was also retired.

Cubs eleventh – Runner on, but not in
Ray King took the mound. Man, I hope he has another good outing in him. He did, getting two outs before yielding to Al Reyes. So came in for Walker in right in a double switch. Reyes walked Barrett. As Duncan came out, rookie Matt Murton was announced as the pinch hitter. Reyes struck him out.

Cards eleventh - Mabry and Eckstein end it
The Cubs sent out Sergio Mitre to pitch. Pinch hitting for Mahoney, John Mabry led off with a double off the wall in left and hustled it into a triple as the ball eluded Hollandsworth. The triple was just Mabry's fifth since he first came up in 1994. Hector Luna pinch ran. After So was unable to plate the run, Eckstein dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt on a 1-1 count to end the game. What a contest! Cards 2-1.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Saturday vs. Cubs: Matt Morris vs. Jerome Williams 2:15pm Big FOX
Sunday vs. Cubs: Jeff Suppan vs. Mark Prior 7:05pm ESPN
Monday: Off day
Tuesday @ Padres: Mark Mulder vs. Woody Williams 9:05pm FSNM
Wed. @ Padres: Jason Marquis vs. Jake Peavy 9:05pm FSNM/ESPN2
Thursday @ Padres: Chris Carpenter vs. Tim Stauffer 2:35pm FSNM

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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