Jason Marquis will have some added help from Larry Walker as the right-hander looks for his ninth straight win when the surging St. Louis Cardinals try to complete a three-game sweep of the New York Mets.
Walker, the 1997 NL MVP and three-time batting champion, was acquired from Colorado on Friday for minor league pitcher Jason Burch and two players to be named.
Walker struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning in his Cardinals’ debut Saturday and was intentionally walked in the ninth before Yadier Molina singled home Jim Edmonds to give St. Louis a 2-1 victory.
“Probably one of the most nervous at-bats I’ve had in my career was today,” Walker said. “The ovation I got, even after I struck out, I felt like I was supposed to wave to the crowd and say thanks. It was amazing.”
The Cardinals, with the best record in the majors, have won four straight and are 47-16 since May 27.
St. Louis had one of the best offenses in the majors before acquiring Walker, but the addition of the multitalented outfielder gives the Cardinals a power-packed lineup that also includes Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.
Walker likely will bat fifth and play right field on Sunday, allowing Reggie Sanders to move to left where the Cardinals have used an assortment of players this season.
“There’s some good times ahead—where to hit him, where to play him, how much to play him,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who praised team ownership. “They’re trying to give us every chance we can to get to the finish line and get to October and do some damage.”
While the Cardinals expected to be a strong offensive team, starting pitching was the team’s biggest concern heading into this season.
Marquis, acquired in the offseason deal that sent J.D. Drew to Atlanta, never found his niche in four seasons with the Braves, going 14-15 with a 4.45 ERA in 96 games. The 25-year-old right-hander, however, has helped make St. Louis the only major league team with three starters in double figures in wins while his 3.67 ERA leads Cardinals’ starters.
Marquis, a New York native, is 8-0 in 14 starts since losing at Montreal on May 8. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in nine of those 14 games. Marquis is also contributing with the bat this season, hitting .319 (15-for-47) and leading all pitchers with eight RBIs.
Saturday’s loss dropped the Mets to 5-7 on a 13-game road trip.
One reason why New York has fallen out of the NL East race is due to the struggles of catcher Mike Piazza, who has one home run and nine RBIs in his last 33 games. Piazza, who had the day off Saturday, is batting .123 (8-for-65) in his past 19 contests.
Mets shortstop Kaz Matsui left the game in the seventh due to soreness in his lower left leg. His status for Sunday is uncertain.
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