Suppan improves to 10-0 on road

DENVER (AP) -- Coors Field felt just like home to Larry Walker.
Anyplace other than Busch Stadium feels just like home to Jeff Suppan.

Suppan improved to 10-0 on the road this season and the St. Louis Cardinals made a winner of Walker in his return to Colorado by defeating the Rockies 5-4 on Friday night.

Albert Pujols homered and Edgar Renteria had three RBI to lead the Cardinals' offense. Walker went 0-for-4 in his first game back in Denver since the Rockies traded him to St. Louis on Aug. 6.

The 1997 NL MVP, who spent 9½ seasons with Colorado and is largely considered the best player to wear a Rockies uniform, got a standing ovation before his first at-bat.

"I wasn't sure what to do when they gave me a standing ovation," Walker said. "I just got into the box, but if it had gone on longer, I would have stepped out and acknowledged it."

While Walker's game was nothing memorable, the effort Suppan (16-8) put in was. He insisted his disparity in record -- he's only 6-8 at home -- is more a quirk than anything.

"It's just one of those things," he said. "I don't really know why. I've had situations before where all I could do was win at home and couldn't ever do anything on the road."

Throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of 31 batters, he struck out five. He allowed solo homers to Jorge Piedra and Todd Helton and an RBI single to Vinny Castilla in the sixth. Suppan loaded the bases later in the sixth but got Brad Hawpe to fly out to end the inning.

"Very carefully," was Suppan's response when asked how he approached Hawpe's at-bat.

The righthander gave up three runs, six hits and three walks in 7 2/3 innings. Ray King retired the final batter of the eighth and got one out in the ninth before allowing a double to Luis Gonzalez.

Kiko Calero gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney
before finishing it for his second save. Closer Jason Isringhausen wasn't available because he'd pitched three of the last four nights. The Cardinals were also without setup man Julian Tavarez, who served the first day of an eight-day suspension for using a foreign substance.

"We needed a game like that, with everything our bullpen is going through," manager Tony La Russa said. "That was an outstanding performance."

Suppan snapped his two-game losing streak, but both those games were at home. On the road is where he's dominant, and he showed it again in his best start anywhere since allowing two hits over eight innings in a 1-0 win at Florida on Aug. 11.

"It's always nice to get back on track," he said.

The Cardinals won their 101st game. La Russa played his regulars -- minus Scott Rolen, who is nursing nagging leg injuries -- even though his team clinched the NL Central last week and is already guaranteed the best record in the National League.

Pujols and Renteria each had RBI singles in the first to give St. Louis the early lead against Jason Jennings (11-12).

Jennings allowed 10 hits over seven innings. Unlike his last five starts, in which he pitched effectively only to wind up with a no-decision, he got a decision this time. He remained winless since Aug. 17 and failed in his final shot this season for win No. 24
at Coors Field, which would have tied the record held by
Pedro Astacio.

"I kept the team in the game," Jennings said. "This was the best I've thrown all year on a consistent basis. And I have nothing to show for it."

With his sixth-inning RBI, Vinny Castilla reached 128 for the season, opening up a seven-RBI lead over Rolen in the chase for the NL crown.

Walker, who waived his no-trade clause to go to the Cardinals, never made it interesting for the crowd, which followed his standing ovation with a lot of cheers and a very small smattering of boos each time he came to bat. He didn't get the ball out of the infield, striking out twice and grounding to first twice before leaving the game in the seventh inning.

"I had decent at-bats, but I was trying to do too much," he

Game notes
La Russa said he would make a decision on his starter for Saturday's game when he comes to the park in the morning. ... The Cardinals improved to 78-30 since May 27 and matched the 101
victories the 1985 NL pennant-winning team won. They need three more wins to match the winningest Cards teams of all-time, in 1942 and 1944. Those teams played a 152-game schedule... This was St. Louis' first visit to Colorado since April 8-10, 2003. ... St.
Louis maintained a 4½-game lead over the Yankees in the race for the best record in the majors.