Cardinals Major League Notebook: 10/03/10

Jeff Suppan threw six scoreless innings at the Rockies as the 86-76 Cardinals finished with a win on Sunday - their ninth win in their final 11 games.



First baseman Albert Pujols captured his first National League runs batted in title at 118 and also won the home-run crown at 42 although, for the first time in his 10 seasons, he didn't win the team batting title. Left fielder Matt Holliday and Pujols both hit .312, but Holliday technically was .003 higher.

"Obviously, (the runs batted in title) is a great accomplishment because you always want to have one of everything," Pujols said. "But it's not about (the numbers).

"It hasn't been the 10 easiest years. But I was able to battle and go through it with God's strength. I go home every day and I look at myself in the mirror and I know I've given everything for this ball club and this organization."

Pujols completed his record 10th straight season of at least .300 average, 30 homers and 100 runs batted in.

"I don't ever like talking about life without Albert Pujols," said right-hander Adam Wainwright. "We could potentially be playing with the best player who ever played the game. We only talk about life with Albert Pujols, never life without Albert Pujols."

Manager Tony La Russa said, "There's nobody better. He'll be in the conversation of all-timers. For 10 years, what a pleasure it has been to be an observer of that."

The Cardinals' four-game sweep of Colorado, culminating with a 6-1 win on Sunday, marked their third four-game sweep at home this season.

CARDINALS 6, ROCKIES 1: Cardinals pitching worked 30 1/3 scoreless innings over four days before giving up a run in the eighth inning on Sunday. The Cardinals, with RHP Jeff Suppan gaining his third victory with six scoreless innings, won their last five games of the season, seven of their last eight and nine of their last 11.


Veteran RHP Jeff Suppan already had affirmed to himself that he wanted to—and could—pitch beyond this season. But his six shutout innings Sunday on top of several other strong outings down the stretch may have convinced somebody else, too. "He's like he was when we had him (from 2004-06)," said manager Tony La Russa. "He is a pitcher." Suppan's earned run average was 7.84 when he was let go by Milwaukee in June. Reunited in St. Louis with pitching coach Dave Duncan, who could see that Suppan had been tipping his pitches, Suppan went 3-6 with the Cardinals but with an earned run average of 3.68. "Ever since 1983, I've understood Dave Duncan's greatness," said La Russa, who has had Duncan as his pitching coach for nearly 30 years. "I don't think he's ever been wrong, as far as I'm concerned."

The strong finish by the Cardinals may only tend to further confuse Tony La Russa and the front office as to how good this year's team actually was. "It'll be an interesting club to realistically evaluate," said La Russa. "Fifty-two home wins? It can't be a bad ball club and you can't not be trying and all that stuff (with that many wins at home). It's a weird season to try to figure out. We're going to try to figure it out. There were some times we were better defensively. And there were some times we took batter at-bats. There's reasons in my mind why that was true. But you start to explain, it sounds like you're making excuses. So whatever anybody wants to figure, let them figure. Have at it."

The Cardinals wound up 10 games over .500, a plateau they hadn't attained since Aug. 29. "It's a nice finish," said Tony La Russa. "It's kind of amazing. We're not going to October, so you can't celebrate that. But there is another way to finish the season. And we didn't."

LF Matt Holliday and 1B Albert Pujols both received standing ovations when they were removed from the game. After he had a rough first few months hitting with men in scoring position, Holliday wound up hitting .271 in such spots. "Early on, he was really trying to justify his ($120 million, seven-year) contract," said La Russa. "Then he settled down and just played—and ended up with an outstanding season."

Rookie C Matt Pagnozzi took a step toward giving himself a chance to make next year's club by driving in 10 runs in his last eight games—and handling each of the Cardinals' last nine victories, which came in an 11-game span. "I haven't thought too much about it," said Pagnozzi, "but I would like to believe I've got a chance to come here and help this team next year."

By the Numbers:

52-29 - Cardinals' home record. They were 34-47 away from home.


Quote to Note:


"After all the things that have gone on, I would definitely like him to come back."


- CF Colby Rasmus, who has had some differences with manager Tony La Russa.




Medical Watch:

LHP Dennys Reyes (strained ligament in left elbow) was shut down for the season Oct. 1.

RHP Adam Wainwright (right forearm strain) was shut down for the season Sept. 28.

RHP Blake Hawksworth (mouth, lip lacerations) was struck in the face by a line drive Sept. 25 and was hospitalized for observation. He was discharged from the hospital Sept. 26 after requiring almost 30 stitches. He missed the rest of the season.

C Yadier Molina (sore right knee) hasn't played since Sept. 21. An MRI on Sept. 22 found inflammation in the knee, and he was shut down for the season.

LHP Jaime Garcia (arm fatigue) missed starts Sept. 18 and Sept. 23, and the Cardinals announced Sept. 24 that he had been shut down for the season.

C Jason LaRue (concussion) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 13. He was moved to the 60-day DL on Aug. 19, ending his season. He announced that he would retire.

3B David Freese (right ankle surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 15. He was originally out due to a bone bruise on his right ankle, and then he broke his left big toe in mid-July. He tore a right ankle tendon Aug. 2 in his first rehab game with Class AA Springfield, and he had season-ending surgery Aug. 6. He underwent surgery on the left ankle a month later, but he expects to be ready for spring training.

RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 22, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31. He threw bullpen sessions June 28 and July 1 but had to cut short a bullpen session July 6 because of tightness in his triceps area. He underwent an MRI on July 7 that found nothing that hadn't been diagnosed before. As of Aug. 5, he was playing catch but not throwing off a mound.

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