The Redbird Report 07/17

Duncan, who is hitting fourth now instead of second, as he has done most of the season, had a two-run homer in the first inning, a single and a sacrifice fly to drive in three more runs Monday night.

About a month ago in Kansas City, hitting coach Hal McRae, seeking to help left fielder Chris Duncan extricate himself from a slump that had take his average into the .250s, suggested that Duncan just try to pull the ball for a while. Duncan hit a home run in his next start and, in the next month since then, he has hit eight homers, driven in 30 runs and batted .419 as his power gradually has returned to all fields.

Second baseman Adam Kennedy, who did absolutely nothing in the first half of the season, hit his second homer in two nights -- and for the season -- and also singled and doubled.

Kennedy, who is hitting the ball more on a plane than getting underneath everything, has had six hits in his three starts since the All-Star break.

"He's swinging better, no doubt about it," said manager Tony La Russa.

"He's looking more like he's been his whole career. This guy's had a history of being a good, winning player."

Kennedy, who likewise credited McRae for his resurgence, said, "It's do or die now. Something inside you tells you it's time to go. It's time to gear it up."

Having been benched sometimes this year, Kennedy, who hadn't experienced that much with the Angels, said, "It does eat at you. The only way to fix it is to play better."

Pitcher Braden Looper also hadn't been heard from much lately. Including some time on the disabled list with a shoulder problem, Looper hadn't won since May 24, but he worked a strong 6 1/3 innings, walking one and allowing five hits and generally keeping the ball down in the strike zone.

"I haven't felt like this in a month," said Looper.

CARDINALS 5, MARLINS 3: In the teams' first meeting of the season, Jason Isringhausen gained his 18th save in 20 tries with a perfect ninth inning after Braden Looper had given the Cardinals a second consecutive good start. Looper posted his seventh victory as the Cardinals gave him a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning. They have scored only 27 runs in the first inning all season, compared to 70 for the opposition.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--CF Skip Schumaker, starting for the second night in a row, had a hit and two walks after getting two doubles the night before.

--RHP Ryan Franklin surrendered an opposite-field homer to Florida 3B Miguel Cabrera in the eighth, stopping a streak of 18 2/3 innings in which he hadn't allowed an earned run.

--The Cardinals are back to five games under .500, the position at which they ended the first half.

--OF Ryan Ludwick pinch-hit a single in the ninth inning, giving him eight pinch hits in 18 pinch at-bats this season, the best mark on the club.

--1B Albert Pujols' home-run streak was stopped at three games (four homers), but he had a single and two walks.


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