Cardinal Notebook with Ray Mileur

Suppan will take the mound at PNC Park tonight in Pittsburgh, still looking for his first win of the 06 campaign.

Cardinal Notebook with Ray Mileur

Jeff Suppan will take the mound at PNC Park tonight in Pittsburgh, still looking for his first win of the '06 campaign.

Not that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa doesn't have confidence in his closer, but he admitted that with the heart of the Pirates' lineup coming up and the tying run 180 feet away from the plate with no outs, he was almost looking ahead to the 10th inning Monday night because Albert Pujols was going to lead off.

But the Cardinals didn't need any late-inning heroics from Pujols this time. Pujols, who provided the fireworks in the first inning Monday with a two-run homer, didn't have to bat in the 10th because closer Jason Isringhausen -- taking the first step back on his own comeback trail -- wriggled out of a mess he created and saved a 2-1 victory for Jason Marquis and the Cardinals.

Pujols tied a big-league record held by 34 other players but only one other Cardinal (Stan Musial) by hitting a home run in his fourth consecutive at-bat. Marquis, who was the warm-up act for Pujols' show on Sunday by delivering a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning, reversed roles with Pujols on Monday. Marquis (3-0) seized upon the opening Pujols gave him to pitch seven innings of one-hit ball -- a scratch infield hit by Chris Duffy -- before allowing the Pirates a run in the eighth.

Then came Isringhausen, who has wrestled with his confidence since Thursday when he gave up a game-losing home run to Milwaukee's Carlos Lee. After giving up a leadoff double in the ninth to Jack Wilson, Isringhausen fanned Jason Bay and Jeromy Burnitz on curveballs in the dirt and then got Craig Wilson on a groundout.

REPLAY: The Cardinals stranded nine and were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position but rode Albert Pujols' ninth homer of the season, a two-run drive in the first, and strong pitching from Jason Marquis and Jason Isringhausen to a 2-1 win at Pittsburgh.

The save for Isringhausen was his fourth in five tries, although he has suffered two losses.

"I'm not saying I'm fixed. I've still got some work to do," he said.

TONIGHT'S STARTER

Jeff Suppan: The veteran righty will make his third start of the season tonight in the middle game of the series. Supe, still seeking his first win of the ‘06 campaign, took a no-decision in an extra inning loss to the Brewers last Thursday (4/12) by allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits in 6.0 IP. Suppan, the former Pirate (2003), is 6-1, 3.09 lifetime vs. Pittsburgh. He won his lone start vs. the Pirates in 2005. For his career, he's 8-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 15 career appearances at PNC Park.

NOTES, QUOTES

--1B Albert Pujols and Detroit's Craig Shelton have nine homers in their first 13 games. Only Mike Schmidt (11 in 1976) has hit more homers in the first 13 games of a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

--Pujols has 17 home runs at PNC Park, seven more than the next highest total by a visiting player, Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds, and the most Pujols has in any visiting park.

Pujols' efforts in PNC Park have been among the major reasons the Cardinals have won 31 of their first 41 games there.

--Much-maligned RF Juan Encarnacion singled to extend his hitting streak to six games. Pujols felt compelled, belatedly, to lash out at the St. Louis fans who had booed Encarnacion -- and also RHP Jason Isringhausen -- during the first homestand at new Busch Stadium.

Hopefully Encarnacion can turn things around in Pittsburgh while the Cardinals are on the road.

"For the fans in St. Louis to be booing Encarnacion, I don't think that was right," Pujols said. "I didn't say anything the other day because I respect our fans."

--When the Cardinals left St. Louis for this brief three-game trip to Pittsburgh, manager Tony La Russa wasn't expecting CF Jim Edmonds, who has had an inflamed right shoulder, to be playing until this weekend when the team will be back at home.

But Edmonds, who said Monday night he felt good, hopes to play Wednesday -- and La Russa isn't disagreeing.

I would suggest the Cardinals give Edmonds the time off in Pittsburgh and put him back in the lineup in St. Louis on Friday to start the series with the Cubs.

--OF John Rodriguez was scratched Monday because of an allergic reaction to some shrimp tempura he ate in a restaurant at the team hotel.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- It took Mark Mulder just six innings to hit the first homer by a Cardinals pitcher at Busch Stadium. In the previous Busch Stadium, it took four years.

BY THE NUMBERS II: 1-18 -- OF Skip Schumaker has just one hit in his last 18 trips to the plate. He's with the club for his defense, but he'll need to hit some if he plans to stay.


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