Marquis, who missed his last start due to a sore back, threw
seven sharp innings and hit a two-run double, leading the St. Louis
Cardinals to a 6-2 victory Wednesday night.
The Big Series
The Big Stakes: Two streaking first place teams went at it; Oakland (37-26) leads the AL West, St. Louis (38-27) heads the NL Central.
The Big Strategy: The Athletics' hitters diligently made Cardinals' starter Jason Marquis work; eight of the first nine batters took the first two pitches in their at-bats, and Marquis threw 39 pitches in the first two innings. But then he settled in.
The Big Bomb: Jim Edmonds slammed an 0-2 pitch off A's starter Rich Harden -- a 98 mph fastball -- for a solo home run in the second inning.
The Big Question: Can Albert Pujols stay healty? The Cards' first baseman returned to the lineup Tuesday and drove in two runs. He then went hitless Wednesday.
The Big Result: The Cardinals have now beaten the A's in each of the first two games of the series. -- Buster Olney, ESPN The Magazine
"Coming out I was trying to do a little too much," Marquis
said. "I was a little anxious to get out there and throw, but I
was able to settle down."Jim Edmonds and Reggie Sanders homered for the Cardinals, who
have won 12 of 15 to move a season-best 11 games above .500.The AL West-leading Athletics were 18-0 against the NL Central
before losing the first two games of a three-game interleague
series. They averaged more than 10 runs per game during an
eight-game winning streak that ended Tuesday.But they've run into a team that's also on a roll."Their entire lineup, once they get Mike Matheny back, is going
to be a tremendous veteran core," Oakland manager Ken Macha said.
"Those are all guys that are going to give you a solid at-bat
every time."Jermaine Dye and Scott Hatteberg hit back-to-back home runs in
the sixth for the Athletics, who have lost seven of eight on the
road."They've got good hitters, so the two mistakes he made, the 3-1
fastball and the 2-2 slider, they hit it out of the park,"
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "But they didn't have much
else to hit."Sanders' three-run shot off Arthur Rhodes with two outs in the
eighth made it a four-run cushion. Rhodes wanted a called strike on
the previous pitch, on a 2-2 count, and was ejected by plate umpire
Bruce Dreckman for arguing while Sanders rounded the bases."It always ends up magnified when you throw another pitch and
it ends up being a three-run home run," Macha said.Sanders was sure the 2-2 pitch was low."The ball was down," he said. "I'm quite sure when he looks
at it on tape he will see that it was down."Edgar Renteria was intentionally walked before Sanders came to
the plate, and the fans were on their feet chanting "Reggie!
Reggie!" before the homer. La Russa said it was almost as if they
willed a home run."I love when they do that," Sanders said. "That's a good
feeling to have an easy name to chant. It makes it easy for them to
get in that mode."Marquis (6-4) held the Athletics to two runs and five hits in
seven innings. Before the homers, he retired 14 of 15 batters. He
won his third straight outing.Kiko Calero got six outs for his first save.Edmonds hit his 14th homer to left-center on an 0-2 pitch from
Rich Harden (3-4) in the second, and Marquis' opposite-field double
with two outs made it 3-0."That's always a good feeling," Marquis said. "I've been
trying to work on my hitting in-between starts and so far it's been
going pretty good."Marquis is batting .241 (7-for-29) with five RBI.Harden lasted 6 1-3 innings and gave up three runs on six hits
with seven strikeouts and two walks, losing for the first time
since May 18. Four of the hits came in the third; otherwise the
Cardinals had no runners in scoring position the first six innings."They were sitting on the fastball, and the location was a
little off," Harden said. "I didn't think they were too bad of
pitches, so you have to credit them."The A's loaded the bases with two outs in the first, but Damian
Miller flied out.
The Cardinals are 15-15 at home after a 3-9 start. ... The
Athletics are 81-49 in interleague play, best in the majors. ...
Oakland's Marco Scutaro was 0-for-3, ending an 11-game hitting
streak during which he batted .356 (16-for-45). ... Renteria had
two singles and is 8-for-15 in his last four games. ... The
Athletics have hit back-to-back homers three times this season. ...
Athletics starters were 7-0 with a 3.16 ERA in the previous 16
games. ... The Athletics plan to place OF Billy McMillon (back) on
the 15-day DL and recall RHP Justin Lehr, the closer at Triple-A