The Cardinals Major League Notebook 04/17

In the last year or so, left fielder Chris Duncan has been a platoon player, has not played at all because of a herniated disk in his neck that required surgery, and is now playing every day.

The left-handed-hitting Duncan made his fifth start against left-handed pitchers Thursday after having only three against them last year, and he delivered three hits off Chicago's Sean Marshall and Neal Cotts, including a two-run homer and a run-scoring single.

Last year, Duncan was just 5-for-34 against left-handers. This year he already is 7-for-18 and has missed just one start out of the Cardinals' first 11 games. Duncan did, however, drop a pop fly that put Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright in considerable peril in the sixth inning.

With the score tied at 4, Duncan's misplay contributed to the Cubs having runners at second and third with nobody out. Wainwright struck out Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, and then Cardinals manager Tony La Russa rolled the dice more than he usually does.

"I don't like walking the bases loaded too much," he said. But, in this instance, he passed hot-hitting, eighth-place hitter Ryan Theriot to fill the bases, and the Cubs pinch-hit dangerous Milton Bradley, who was sitting out with a groin injury.

Wainwright fell behind Bradley at 3-0 before throwing two strikes. At 3-2, catcher Yadier Molina went to the mound. "We'd already agreed on the curveball," Wainwright said. But the pitcher said he felt the ball about to slip out of his hand and he wanted to step off the rubber before throwing the pitch.

Curveball it was, and Bradley took strike three. He was none too happy about it -- getting ejected arguing -- but Wainwright joked, "I'm sure the TV strike zone had it over the plate."

Wainwright then retired Alfonso Soriano on a fly to deep left and the momentum shifted back to the Cardinals, who scored two runs in the seventh -- one on Molina's single and another on Duncan's third hit.

"You've just got to get out of it," Wainwright said. "You can't let your team down."

Wainwright walked four, giving him 12 walks in three games, but La Russa said, "He's got the ability to make pitches with runners in scoring position."

CARDINALS 7, CUBS 4: The Cardinals won for the seventh time in their last eight games. All eight of their wins in 11 games have come from the starting pitchers -- two each from Kyle Lohse, Joel Pineiro and Adam Wainwright and one each from Chris Carpenter and Todd Wellemeyer. The Cardinals also got three hits and three RBIs from Chris Duncan; Brian Barden had his first three-hit day, including his second home run; and Khalil Greene, who had been 2-for-16, hit his first homer as a Cardinal.


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