The Redbird Report 05/24

When the Cardinals scored in the first inning Wednesday night on David Eckstein's first home run of the season, it meant two things. One was that it marked just the third time in 43 games they had scored in the first inning. The other was that it gave struggling Kip Wells only his fourth lead of the season.

When the Cardinals scored in the first inning Wednesday night on David Eckstein's first homer of the season, it meant two things. One was that it marked just the third time in 43 games they had scored in the first inning. The other was that it gave struggling Kip Wells only his fourth lead of the season.

Wells, still celebrating the birth of his first child, Georgia, on Saturday, pitched his best game since one-hitting Houston for seven innings on April 8. He allowed only five hits and one earned run in seven innings against his former team, the Pirates, and now his seven-losing streak is over. Wells is 2-8.

"If he has some success and builds some confidence, we'll have something special," said manager Tony La Russa, who called on closer Jason Isringhausen for just his second five-out save of the season.

Jim Edmonds hit only his second homer of the season, and Chris Duncan cracked his third in three nights and fifth of the eight the Cardinals have this month.

First baseman Albert Pujols had two hits and made a key defensive play, and Juan Encarnacion also had two hits.

"When our key guys are playing like key guys, you know what that's going to do," La Russa said. "We're a completely different team. We're a good-looking team."

CARDINALS 5, PIRATES 3: The Cardinals have only their second two-game winning streak this month after beating the Pirates for the second consecutive night. Right-hander Kip Wells, facing his former team for the first time, walked only one in seven innings. Working more deliberately than usual, he pitched ahead in the count most of the night and used his fastball effectively. Wells worked with backup catcher Gary Bennett for the first time this season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--Wednesday was just the 11th time in 43 games the Cardinals had scored first. They are 8-3 in those games and 10-22 in the others.

--Until SS David Eckstein and CF Jim Edmonds homered Wednesday off Pittsburgh RHP Ian Snell, the Cardinals had hit only five homers in the first 21 days of May, four of them by LF Chris Duncan, who then homered later in the game himself.

--The Cardinals hadn't had a multi-homer game since April 22 in Chicago, when, with a howling wind, they had hit four.

--C Yadier Molina, who didn't start Wednesday and didn't bat either, will enter Thursday's game with a 14-game hitting streak. Ted Simmons has the club record by a catcher at 19 in 1975. Molina, who hit .216 last year, has continued his performance of the 2006 postseason, when he hit .358, and spring training, when he batted .400.

--A 1-2-3 first inning by RHP Kip Wells was the first for the Cardinals since Wells had done that in San Diego on May 11.

--RHP Ryan Franklin was absent from the park with a case of strep throat. It is unlikely he would be ready for Thursday afternoon's game either.


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