The Redbird Report 04/19

The Cardinals' lucky charm was pitching Friday. Right-hander Todd Wellemeyer fired seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball at the San Francisco Giants and the Cardinals won for the 12th time in the 15 starts the converted reliever has made in the last two seasons.

"He had a better breaking ball than he's had in a long time," said manager Tony La Russa.

First baseman Albert Pujols had a three-run homer to highlight a six-run fourth inning, but the key offensive player Friday was left fielder Chris Duncan, rounding into form after battling back and hamstring injuries this spring.

Duncan, hitting second in front of Pujols, doubled, hit a two-run homer and had the patience to take two walks. "He's really got a good strike zone for the number of at-bats he's had in the big leagues," said La Russa of his third-year outfielder.

All six of the Cardinals' runs in the fourth came with two out. Catcher Jason LaRue started the inning with his first hit of the season and shortstop Cesar Izturis kept it alive with a two-out double before right fielder Skip Schumaker singled home the first two runs of the inning.

The Cardinals have scored first in 13 of their first 17 games and won 11 of them. "That's a great way to play this game," La Russa said.

CARDINALS 11, GIANTS 1: After being no-hit by right-hander Matt Cain for six innings last Saturday before they exploded, the Cardinals got to Cain early Friday. Left fielder Chris Duncan's double set up a run in the first and his second homer broke a 1-1 tie in the third. First baseman Albert Pujols hit his fourth homer, a second-deck shot. It was his first at Busch Stadium this season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--INF Brendan Ryan, recovering from a rib-cage strain, has been performing well at Class AA Springfield (Mo.) on a medical rehabilitation option. But manager Tony La Russa is making no guarantees that Ryan will rejoin the big-league club when he is deemed ready to play on a regular basis.

"He needs to get in really good shape," said La Russa. "He missed a lot of time in spring training. I don't think he's automatic. He hasn't done enough yet to give him guarantees."

--OF Skip Schumaker, after starting off 0-for-16, has hiked his average to .321. He had two hits and a walk as the leadoff man Friday.

"When he was about 0-for-11, he'd hit about eight balls that had they been a foot or two the other way, they'd been hits," said La Russa. "He was never really as bad as the oh-fer. He's the Skip Schumaker we saw all spring."

--OF Ryan Ludwick, who had homered in each of the last four games in which he had more than one at-bat, sat out Friday's start although he came in to get a single later in the game. "What he's done, it's tough not to leave him out there," said La Russa. "We looked at it hard. But which one of those (other outfielders) do you sit? You think (Skip) Schumaker is not hot? And what's wrong with (Chris) Duncan? What's wrong with Ank (Rick Ankiel)? They're all playing well."

--C Jason LaRue has started four games. All have been Cardinals wins.

--RHP Russ Springer, out with a nerve problem in his elbow, is scheduled to throw in a simulated game Saturday. He may come off the 15-day disabled list next week.


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