The Redbird Report - It's Always Something

Even in victory, something always seems to go wrong for the Cardinals lately. Catcher Gary Bennett was hit in the back of the head by a pitch Tuesday night.

As their bullpen worked more than half of Tuesday night's 4-3 win over Cincinnati, the Cardinals lost another player when catcher Gary Bennett was hit in the back of the head by a pitch from Cincinnati right-hander Aaron Harang in the second inning. Bennett tried to stay in the game but began experiencing headaches after he got to first base, so he came out.

"He's got a pretty good knot," said manager Tony La Russa, who had to go with new catcher Kelly Stinnett, who was sitting at home, ostensibly retired, a few days ago before the Cardinals purchased him from the Dodgers' Class AAA Las Vegas farm team.

La Russa called it "totally unfair" that Stinnett would have to go into a game after barely meeting the Cardinals' pitchers, but he praised Stinnett's veteran presence.

Indeed, Stinnett handled five relievers without too much incident, although starter Todd Wellemeyer walked four under his watch in the fourth inning when the Reds scored twice to force the right-hander from the game.

Wellemeyer, making his second big-league start, will get another shot, La Russa said. But there are probably no guarantees beyond that, let alone any guarantee that Bennett will be able to play soon.

Asked who the backup catcher would be now, La Russa said, "(So) Taguchi. He does everything else."

On Tuesday, Taguchi drove in the go-ahead run for the second game in a row, singling to score Aaron Miles from third base with one out in the ninth inning. On Sunday in Houston, Taguchi had homered to break a 5-5 tie in the 10th inning.

"He's a terrific late-game player, absolutely cool under pressure," La Russa said.

CARDINALS 4, REDS 3: The Cardinals won for the fifth time in their last six games despite issuing nine walks and hitting two batters. But Cardinals pitchers forced the Reds to strand 15 runners. The offensive stars for St. Louis were David Eckstein, who extended his hitting streak to eight games with three hits, and Juan Encarnacion, whose homer hiked his streak of consecutive games with an extra-base hit to six.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--3B Scott Rolen, who has been out three games with a right hamstring strain, went through a vigorous pregame workout but was held out of Tuesday's game. He may play Wednesday night.

--LF Chris Duncan, out a week with a staph infection in his left leg, returned to the lineup Tuesday. He made a stellar catch at the wall in the first inning but went 0-for-4, fanning three times. Duncan is 0 for his last 14. --C Brian Esposito was optioned back to Class AAA Memphis, and the Cardinals activated C Kelly Stinnett, whom they had purchased on Sunday from the Dodgers' organization.

--RHP Todd Wellemeyer, making his second big-league start after being removed from the bullpen, walked six hitters, four in the fourth inning. "I was just yanking it out of the zone," he said. Wellemeyer thought he was close on some pitches, but he said, "The way I was throwing it, (the umpire) wasn't going to give me anything on the corners."

--RHP Jason Isringhausen gained his second win in the last two games by working a scoreless ninth inning, although he had to pitch out of a jam after he walked two hitters.

--SS David Eckstein is hitting .455 (13-for-33) during his eight-game hitting streak, which has been sandwiched around injuries to his back and to his left elbow.

--LHP Mark Mulder, who had shoulder surgery last September, threw off a mound for the first time at Busch Stadium this year when he worked in the bullpen before Tuesday's game. He is not expected to be able to pitch in the majors before late July.


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