The Redbird Report 08/18

Right-handed pitcher Braden Looper, the king of daytime baseball, had another outstanding game Friday at Chicago. Looper, who had a 6-0 record and 1.84 ERA in the daytime, allowed just a two-run homer to Cubs center fielder Jacque Jones in six innings.

But that home run was enough to derail the Cardinals' winning streak at five games. "It was a pitch that was up a little bit," said manager Tony La Russa. "Some guys miss it. Jones didn't."

Looper said, "I felt like I was in control of the game completely. I made one bad pitch at the wrong time. It was the only mistake I made all day. I left it up and he made me pay."

First baseman Albert Pujols provided the only Cardinals run with a homer in the sixth inning. But Pujols popped up with two on and two out in the eighth in the key Cardinals at-bat of the game.

"I got a good pitch to hit," said Pujols. "I just got under it and popped it up."

The Cardinals had just two at-bats with men in scoring position during the game as they had only four hits off three Chicago pitchers.

The game was marked by the return of right fielder Juan Encarnacion, benched for a week with a left knee injury and also because of the emergence of outfielder Rick Ankiel.

"The game was well-played, well-pitched," said La Russa. "Their big hit was bigger than our big hit."

CHICAGO 2, CARDINALS 1: Braden Looper permitted just four hits in six innings, but one of them, a two-run homer by Jacque Jones, evened Looper's record at 10-10 for the season. The Cardinals, falling to three games under .500, also dropped three games behind the Cubs, who passed Milwaukee for the lead the NL Central Division.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--RF Juan Encarnacion, playing for the first time in a week, was 0-for-4, although he hit a ball hard to left field in the ninth. "I was pretty excited," said Encarnacion. "It's good to get back."

--PH Chris Duncan, struggling mightily this month -- he's hit under .150 -- struck out in the eighth inning, running his strikeout total to 101 for the season.

--LF Ryan Ludwick made one sliding catch and another diving grab to save hits. Ludwick has played defense much better than he did in the spring.

--OF Rick Ankiel, showing good plate discipline, walked for the second day in a row as a pinch hitter. Ankiel probably will start on Saturday.

--RHP Braden Looper, who had beaten the Cubs twice this season, suffered his first loss to Chicago this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Number of times 1B Albert Pujols, 3B Scott Rolen and CF Jim Edmonds have homered in same game this year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just decided it wasn't worth the investment that it was going to take to sign him." -- GM Walt Jocketty, on the Cardinals failing to reach agreement with Texas OF Kyle Russell, their fourth-round draft pick who returned to school.


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