Game 43 - Cardinals 5, Pirates 3

The St. Louis Cardinals took their second victory in a row over the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night at Busch Stadium as Kip Wells finally won after seven straight defeats. The offense provided three home runs and Jason Isringhausen earned a five-out save.

The St. Louis Cardinals (18-25) continued to impress offensively and on the mound with a 5-3 home victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates (19-26) on Wednesday evening. Chris Duncan, Jim Edmonds, and David Eckstein hit home runs to push the Cards to victory. Kip Wells (2-8) earned his first win in eight starts, and Ian Snell (4-3) picked up the loss for the Bucs. Jason Isringhausen took the save (11).

In the opening frame, Wells retired the top of the Pirates' lineup 1-2-3. The Cardinals took advantage of the rare scoreless inning when David Eckstein led off with a solo home run, his first of the year. With one out, Albert Pujols' double bounced off the right field wall and Juan Encarnacion hit a blast to center field that would have been a two-run home run, except that Chris Duffy robbed the Cardinals' right fielder of the game-breaking home run with a jumping catch in center field.

Wells had another quick inning in the second, giving up one hit, Jason Bay's double. The Cardinals scored again with yet another leadoff home run, this one coming from Jim Edmonds. The ball was absolutely crushed to right field, a no-doubter from the time it left the bat.

Wells kept putting up zeros through the fifth inning, when he received some more run support from Chris Duncan, who homered for the second straight game. His two-run blast put the Cards up 4-0, and Wells nearly escaped the sixth inning unscathed until Adam Kennedy botched a potential double play ball and allowed a run to score. After Jose Bautista came home on the ground ball (which took a wicked in-between hop). Bay flew out in the next at-bat, but Freddy Sanchez tagged up and became the Pirates' second run of the game on the sac-fly. Wells protected the 4-2 lead, preventing any further damage.

Wells would pitch in the seventh inning and after a sacrifice bunt and a ground out found himself in another jam: Xavier Nady was on third base with two outs, but didn't score. In the eighth, Wells was relieved by Randy Flores, who gave up a triple to Chris Duffy and an RBI double to Adam LaRoche with one out. The Cards' lead dwindled to 4-3 before Flores was removed in favor of closer Jason Isringhausen. Isringhausen proceeded to walk Bay in four pitches with one out, putting two on for Ryan Doumit. Doumit entered the at-bat 0-for-3 on the game, and did not buck that trend after a lengthy at-bat in which he struck out looking. Isringhausen also fanned Nady to end the Pittsburgh threat.

Encarnacion doubled leading off the bottom of the eighth for his second hit of the night. Encarnacion could have had a huge night, finishing a triple shy of the cycle had it not been for Duffy's amazing catch to rob him of a home run earlier in the game. Edmonds drew an intentional walk to try and set up a double play with Gary Bennett coming to the plate, but Scott Spiezio pinch hit in the place of Bennett. Spiezio came through in the clutch with a single that scored Encarnacion and advanced Edmonds to third base. Up 5-3 with another runner in scoring position and with the ground ball double play no longer an option, the Pirates faced Kennedy, who was 0-for-3 up this point, and was 0-for-4 after the at-bat as he flew out to left field. It turned out to be a double play after all, though, as Edmonds was thrown out trying to tag up from third and score.

Isringhausen returned to the mound in the ninth, and Yadier Molina came in to catch. Izzy induced Jack Wilson to fly out for the first out. Jose Castillo grounded out in the following at-bat, and the Cardinals' closer notched his 11th save of the season and helped Kip Wells earn his second victory by forcing Jose Bautista into a groundout to end the game.

Game Notes:

- It was the second straight game the Cardinals have received good performances from the offense and the pitching staff. This is great news, and even the lineup is starting to raise individual batting averages. Albert Pujols sits at .276, while Duncan is at .295 with a team-high nine home runs. Juan Encarnacion has been playing very well and had two hits on Wednesday to raise his average to .310 in limited at-bats. The Jim Edmonds home run was a great sign, as well.

- Kip Wells really played well against his former team. His stuff had more movement that normal and he looked more confident. If it had not been for Adam Kennedy's error, Wells may have avoided giving up a run. Either way, a 5-3 win is still a win.

- David Eckstein has been playing very well leading off, and hit a leadoff home run on Wednesday, the first long ball of the year for the 2006 World Series MVP. Eckstein was 1-for-3 with a walk and one RBI and one run scored. He raised his batting average to .270.



Brady Holzhauer can be reached via email at sportswriter5@gmail.com.

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