The Inside Pitch with Ray Mileur

An insiders look at the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Inside Pitch

The Cardinals will take their fourth-best ERA in the National League into Colorado for a four-game series beginning Monday. Only Chris Carpenter (7-3) among the rotation members will not pitch in the series.

Historically, the Cardinals have not done well in Coors Field -- they have a 54-58 overall record against the Rockies. However, RF Larry Walker will be returning to Coors Field for the second time as a visiting player, and Walker is a .383 career hitter at Coors.

This probably will be the last full week the Cardinals will be without 3B Scott Rolen, who had shoulder surgery 2 1/2 weeks ago. Rolen may be able to play the week after this, when the Cardinals host Boston and the New York Yankees, but most certainly should be ready for a trip to Toronto, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, beginning June 13.

The Cardinals' staff also will be tested in homer-friendly Minute Maid Park in Houston on the back half of this trip. Counting the end of last season and the playoffs, the Cardinals have lost seven of their last eight games in Houston. But, of course, this is a different Astros team without CF Carlos Beltran and 2B Jeff Kent, who are with other clubs, and 1B Jeff Bagwell, who is injured.

Apparently the Cardinals are suited to playing anywhere this season, though. Their 15-7 road mark is easily the best in the league.

NOTES, QUOTES

--CF Jim Edmonds had been in something of a funk, hitting just two homers since April 19. But, the appearance of Flynn Kile, widow of late, beloved Cardinals RHP Darryl Kile, and her two children, including young Kannon (who was in the dugout), seemed to energize both Edmonds and RHP Matt Morris, who also was a close friend of Kile.

Edmonds smacked his eighth homer and two doubles and roamed all over the outfield Friday night as the Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals, 6-3, before 47,383 at Busch Stadium. Edmonds drove in two runs with his first-inning homer off RHP Tony Armas Jr., and two more with a third-inning double off Armas.

Morris, 5-0, in his eight starts, fanned eight and walked no one, giving him a 44-9 strikeout-walk ratio. Morris' curveball is outstanding and his fastball is back, much sooner than people had thought after he had undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in December.

--RHP Jason Isringhausen still is perfect at 14-for-14 after getting saves Friday and Saturday. The bullpen, with Isringhausen back following more than two weeks off with an oblique strain, has taken on some stability. RHP Julian Tavarez, more accustomed to a setup role, worked a perfect eighth.

Isringhausen has allowed only one run this year and that was when he was called into a blowout game suddenly after LHP Bill Pulsipher got hurt on April 12.

--At 32-17 through Sunday, the Cardinals were off to the second-best start in club history. The 1941 team, which was edged out by Brooklyn for the National League pennant, was 32-14 after 46 games.

--The Cardinals have won 28 of their last 43 games from Montreal/Washington since 1994, lost to the Nationals, Sunday 3-2.

--RHP Cal Eldred, out since mid-April with a viral infection that affected the lining around his heart, was cleared for full-time work.

--RHP Mike Lincoln threw 25 pitches easily on Wednesday as he continues to rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery he had last July. Lincoln had made strides this spring training but then had regressed.

"I just don't want to get ahead of myself this time," he said. "In spring, unfortunately, I pushed it to get ready for the start of the season."

--Besides hitting coach Hal McRae, 1B Albert Pujols has been helping C Yadier Molina, who started off so horribly but has climbed to .254.

"He's young," said Pujols. "He's learning about making adjustments. I'm still getting help from Jimmy (Edmonds), Larry (Walker) and those guys. It's what you're supposed to do. You get help when you're young. You're supposed to pass it around."

--LHP Mark Mulder defeated Pittsburgh 11-5 Wednesday to raise his record to 71-5 when he has received four or more runs of support.

--PH John Mabry snapped an 0-for-14 skid Wednesday with a run-scoring double in the eighth.

--CF Jim Edmonds stopped a 0-for-11 slide Wednesday with a run-scoring double in the fourth.

--SS David Eckstein banged his second homer of the season in the third on Wednesday, snapping a 40-inning homerless drought by the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- Consecutive times the Cardinals have beaten the Pirates in the last two seasons.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I might feel a little better if he shaved." -- Manager Tony La Russa on 23-year-old RHP Brad Thompson, the successful long man in the bullpen who looks about 13 years old.

ROSTER REPORT

ROTATION: 1. LHP Mark Mulder 2. RHP Chris Carpenter 3. RHP Jason Marquis 4. RHP Jeff Suppan 5. RHP Matt Morris

BULLPEN: RHP Jason Isringhausen (closer) LHP Ray King RHP Julian Tavarez RHP Al Reyes LHP Randy Flores RHP Brad Thompson LHP Gabe White

LINEUP: 1. SS David Eckstein 2. RF Larry Walker 3. 1B Albert Pujols 4. CF Jim Edmonds 5. LF Reggie Sanders 6. 2B Mark Grudzielanek 7. 3B John Mabry/Scott Seabol 8. C Yadier Molina

RESERVES: OF Roger Cedeno OF So Taguchi INF Abraham Nunez C Einar Diaz

MEDICAL WATCH: 3B Scott Rolen, sprained left shoulder, 15-day DL. RHP Cal Eldred, viral infection, 15-day DL.


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