after walking more than 3 men per 9 innings in 2005, mark mulder has issued just 2 walks in his first 28 innings of 2006. last night he got through two complete innings (the 1st and the 5th) without missing the strike zone, and another (the 3d) where he missed only once. mark's strikeout rate is no better this year than last, but he is fooling a lot more hitters this season. last night he induced 14 swinging strikes, an excellent total -- and the 2d time this year he has exceeded a dozen (he induced 13 in the home opener). i should probably add that five of the swing-misses came against pitchers, and a whopping 7 came against the struggling jacque jones, whose career-long futility against left-handed pitching is well known to everyone except dusty baker. . . . anyway, the point is that mulder continues to throw quality strikes this year. he has achieved his dramatic reduction in walks while holding opponents' batting average to last year's level (.273 this year, vs .274 last) and increasing his groundout/flyout ratio. the only potential consequence of his being around the plate more often: more dingers. mulder has allowed 5 so far this year, or one every 5.6 innings. last year he gave them up about half as often (one hr per 10.8 inn). but it's still early, and all of his starts have come in hitter's parks -- assuming that's what busch iii proves to be. the overall trend is encouraging.
that little rascal aaron miles drew two walks last night to bring his season's total to 8 -- equaling his 2005 total. he has 48 plate appearances this year; last year he needed 347 pa to compile those same 8 walks. another homer for edmonds; don't know if it's the cortisone shot or the better balance at the plate (probably both), but it's great to have him back. (if you haven't seen baseball prospectus' review of his hall-of-fame credentials, here's the link.) two-hit game for encarnacion; leave him down in the order, tony. david eckstein has been on base 17 times in the last 6 games; the cards are 5-1 in that span and have scored six runs per.
pujols -- what a show.
down at memphis, anthony reyes got his first win of the season last night. an uneventful outing -- 7 inn, 6 h, 3 earned, 1 w, 3 k; 7 groundball outs vs 11 flyouts. he apparently did not have his best stuff -- only four swinging strikes all night, a low total for him -- but after yielding six hits in the first three innings, he settled in and mowed down 12 of 13 from the 4th through the 7th. brian falkenborg pitched a perfect 9th for the save; larry bigbie got his first couple of hits (he's now 2 for 13 on his rehab); and john gall jacked a homer (his 1st), a grand slam. spivey went 0 for 3 with a walk and is now hitting .214. combining spring training with the first 15 games of the triple a season, he has had over 120 at-bats this year against live pitching -- mostly minor-league pitching -- and had only four extra-base hits, all doubles. his walk total at triple a is nice -- it swells his obp to a robust .413 -- but he's not going to draw those passes against big league pitchers. it's starting to look like this guy simply can't hit anymore; all those injuries may have caught up to him.
the way maddux (who pitches on sunday) has been throwing, if the cardinals want to win this series they'd best win today.