MLB Insiders - Suppan Moves to 2nd

Right-hander Jeff Suppan, who seems to shine for the Cardinals late in every season, has moved solidly into the No. 2 slot in the rotation behind ace Chris Carpenter. In 10 starts since the All-Star break, Suppan has a 2.23 ERA and has won five of seven decisions, including Tuesday's 2-0 win at Washington.

Suppan (11-7) held the Nationals to five hits over 7 2/3 innings as he constantly got ahead in the count with his fastball. Adam Wainwright, after hitting the first batter he faced, Austin Kearns, fanned Brian Schneider to end the eighth. Jason Isringhausen went on his usual haphazard journey but gained his 33rd save by fanning Felipe Lopez after walking the tying run on base in the ninth.

Albert Pujols is in one of those grooves. Pujols homered for the fifth time in his last three games when he hit No. 44 in the first inning. Much of the rest of the Cardinals offense -- they have scored only three runs in two games at RFK Stadium in the series -- came off the bat of Yadier Molina, who had a double and a single and was credited with an RBI when the Nationals botched a potential double play on his grounder n the seventh.

REPLAY: The Cardinals reduced their magic number to 19 for clinching their third consecutive National League Central title when they beat Washington 2-0 Tuesday. Jeff Suppan, who has given up only one earned run in his last three starts, covering 22 1/3 innings, gained his 11th win.

Albert Pujols, who has homered twice for two of the Cardinals' three runs in the series, gave Suppan a 1-0 lead with his 44th home run in the first inning. Strong defense by third baseman Scott Rolen, who had three outstanding plays, and right fielder Preston Wilson, who made a good running catch in the eighth inning on Felipe Lopez, helped preserve the shutout, the Cardinals' eighth of the season.

NOTES

--The Cardinals' roster was augmented by four Tuesday when they brought up RHP Josh Kinney, LHP Chris Narveson, SS John Nelson and OF Skip Schumaker from Triple-A Memphis. Schumaker had been playing most recently with the United States team that qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games.

--The Cardinals have beaten Washington four times in six meetings and have clinched the season series, which has one game remaining Wednesday afternoon.

--RHP Chris Carpenter, the National League ERA leader at 2.87, will seek his 14th victory Wednesday.

--A group from the Cardinals' traveling party visited the White House and President Bush on Tuesday before going to RFK Stadium. Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is a good friend of Bush and has conducted fund-raisers for him.

--OF Juan Encarnacion sat out Tuesday's game with a left hip flexor injury, and he won't play Wednesday either.


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