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credit where it's due: ponson pitched a pretty good game and deserved to win. his slider was very sharp, and he kept the astros off balance much of the evening. i won't completely excuse him from responsibility for the two unearned runs in the 4th -- he was asking for trouble when he walked burke and plunked berkman -- but he did keep the inning (and game) from spiraling out of control. and so (sigh) he remains in contention for further starting assignments . . . .

the cardinal offense did its best to redeem ponson's work with some runs; they hit the ball hard all night, but their luck was harder. you can't hit a baseball with any more force than edmonds did in the 2d inning, but his laser shot went straight to lance berkman; rolen hit a couple of line drives at fielders, including the one up the middle with 2 outs in the 8th that looked like a game-tying single. astros had that one defensed perfectly. the bad luck was compounded by some anxious baserunning and one egregiously bad managerial decision -- letting duncan hit for himself with 1 out in the 8th. so far this season, combining his triple a and mlb lines, duncan has whiffed in 27 percent of his plate appearances. . . . . wrong guy for the situation. i was on a long-distance call at the time -- we were talking about the war or immigration or something -- and interrupted myself mid-sentence to mutter the non sequitur "here comes a strikeout," then resumed talking. the person on the other end of the line knows me well and just let it slide. sure enough, chris chased ball 4 and got himself out again, 5th or 6th time he has done that this year with a man on 3d and 0 or 1 out.

a lot of minor sins like that will get you cast out of paradise as surely as one major sin will, and it seems as if this year's team commits many, many more small bad acts than the 2004-05 cardinals. but, as i commented in the (pre)game thread last night, good teams make mistakes too -- but cover their tracks:

a better left fielder and/or one more good starting pitcher would render at least some of those mental lapses invisible. in years past the cards could either pitch around or slug through mistakes; this year those same mistakes are game changers, because the team simply has less ability.
that is, the cards in 06 are simply operating with a much thinner margin for error. combine that with a (seeming) increase in the rate of miscues (both physical and mental), and the result is a won-loss record that is 9 games worse than last year's at this point in the season.

i'll take some solace in the fact that the cardinals pitched and hit better than the astros did last night. i'm also encouraged by edmonds' revival -- it looks solid. he's turning on pitches again, something he hasn't been able to do consistently for pert' near a year. 15 hr in the 2d half from him would go a mighty long way . . . . . .

here's a profile of amaury marti, the cuban defector whom the cards drafted in rd 18 last month.