Suppan, Encarnacion team to top Rox
Starter earns 100th win; right fielder chips in two long balls
ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Suppan doesn't usually save a baseball after each of his victories.
He will after Saturday night's 6-5 win, though. The right-hander's 7 2/3-inning performance against the Rockies allowed him to reach a milestone he'd been pursuing since he broke in with the Red Sox in 1995: 100 career wins.
"A lot of wins and losses go in to this," Suppan said. "I went out there and tried to keep my team in the game and have the same thoughts that I had on my first win. ... 100 wins is 100 wins. It's not something I tried to think about. Getting the next win is always important."
Coupled with two Juan Encarnacion homers, Suppan's effort helped lift the Cardinals over Colorado at Busch Stadium on Saturday night.
Suppan's performance was the second sterling start by the Cards pitching staff in the last three days. On the heels of a seven-inning, 13-K performance by Chris Carpenter against the Pirates on Tuesday night and an eight-inning outing from Jason Marquis on Friday night, Suppan delivered his best start since May 5.
"One hundred big-league wins," La Russa said. "And the way he did it, shutting them down. Well deserved. I know he has gotten close a couple of times, and it was a little frustrating for him. Wonderful individual milestone and a big pick-me-up for the club as well."
Suppan allowed three runs and permitted just one tally in the first seven innings, consistently keeping the strong Rockies lineup at bay with an assortment of pitches.
"He stayed out of the middle of the plate," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, "and he definitely wasn't up."
On the other hand, Rockies starter Jeff Francis had problems, leaving multiple pitches in the zone for the sizzling Cardinals offense. Since Albert Pujols went on the disabled list 12 games ago, the Birds are averaging nearly six runs a game.
Led by the two homers from Encarnacion, the Cardinals scored six more against Francis, a left-hander who entered with a 1.17 ERA in two starts against the Redbirds.
They hit Francis early and often, scoring more runs (two) through the first four batters of the first inning than they did in 7 2/3 innings versus Francis on May 8, when they scored just once.
"He is legitimate," La Russa said of Francis.
With two out and So Taguchi on first, Encarnacion lined a 2-1 changeup down the left-field line and off the red Washington University Physicians sign, providing the Cardinals with a 2-0 lead.
Three innings later, Encarnacion delivered again, providing Suppan with some more cushion. He sent a 1-1 Francis fastball over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.
The blast sparked a three-run inning that included three more hits, including a single from Suppan.
The homers marked another step in the Encarnacion turnaround. The last time Encarnacion faced Francis, he was mired in a season-long quagmire, hitting in the low .200s and looking uncomfortable in his first season in a Redbird uniform.
This time around, Encarnacion, who also doubled to deep right in the eighth, enjoyed one of his best games as a Cardinal. The quiet, soft-spoken right fielder didn't try to make this one any more important than the others.
"I hope I come back tomorrow and do it again," Encarnacion said.
Suppan made the six runs hold up until he exited with two outs in the eighth, having thrown 113 pitches. He was challenged on only one other occasion, a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth.
But he coaxed an infield popup and a ground ball and survived without any damage.
"That was big," Suppan said.
The Rockies, though, closed the gap in the eighth on a three-run blast by Garrett Atkins. They also tallied one more in the ninth on a solo shot by JD Closser, but Jason Isringhausen, who blew a win for Suppan two starts ago, shut the door for his 23rd save.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.