Molina homer proves to be the difference

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- After two subpar starts, Jeff Suppan was
dominant Saturday night.

Suppan allowed four hits in seven innings and Jim Edmonds
homered for the second straight game, helping the St. Louis
Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 for their fifth
straight victory.

"That's the Jeff that cranked out so many of those games last
year," manager Tony La Russa said. "He just looked like himself.
He was really aggressive and had good stuff."

Yadier Molina had a two-run homer for the Cardinals, who will
try to complete a perfect six-game homestand on Sunday. The NL
Central leaders are 32-16, the second-best start in franchise

Nick Johnson's bases-loaded walk in the sixth drove in the lone
run for the Nationals, who will be trying to avoid consecutive road
sweeps in the series finale. At 24-25, Washington is below .500 for
the first time since it was 3-4 on April 11.

"Our offense is still missing in action," manager Frank
Robinson said. "Whoever goes out there against us looks like Cy

Jason Isringhausen, the Cardinals' third pitcher, worked the
ninth for his 14th save in 14 chances.

Coming off losses in his previous two outings, Suppan (4-5)
didn't allow a hit until Brad Wilkerson's broken-bat single at the
end of a 10-pitch at-bat with one out in the sixth. That turned out
to be his only difficult inning, due to a couple more soft hits.

Marlon Byrd followed with a broken-bat infield single and Jose
Guillen's dribbler down the third-base line stopped just fair to
load the bases for Johnson, who fouled off two full-count pitches
before walking to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Suppan escaped further damage when the next batter, Vinny
Castilla, grounded into an inning-ending double play. Second
baseman Mark Grudzielanek held his ground when Johnson barreled
into him, making a strong relay.

"Johnson was all over him," La Russa said. "That's a double
play that not many second basemen have turned."

Suppan said his location was a lot better than his two previous
outings, when he allowed eight earned runs in eight innings.

"You have to have a short-term memory and really just go out
there game by game," Suppan said. "What happened in the past is
in the past. I'm just trying to keep it simple and make pitches."

Edmonds had been in a 1-for-14 slump before homering, hitting
two doubles and driving in four runs on Friday night. He hit his
ninth homer off Esteban Loaiza (1-4) to straightaway center leading
off a three-run second.

Grudzielanek singled with one out and scored on Molina's second
homer, both in the last in 10 days, to make it 3-0. Since a
1-for-31 start as the Cardinals' new catcher, Molina has batted
.318 (34-for-107) to raise his average to .254.

Loaiza lasted six innings and gave up three runs and eight hits
with six strikeouts and a walk, again suffering from lack of
support. Entering the game, the Nationals had been scoring a major
league-low 1.9 runs per nine innings in his starts, according to
Stats, Inc.

"What can I do? I'm a pitcher," Loaiza said. "I just try to
do the best job possible. I haven't gotten that much run support
from my teammates, but I know they're out there battling 110

Game notes
Edmonds is the third player to hit 100 homers at Busch
Stadium, joining Ray Lankford (123) and Mark McGwire (119). ...
Cardinals RF Larry Walker left after four innings with a slightly
sprained left ankle. So Taguchi replaced him. La Russa said he
hoped Walker would be available to pinch hit on Sunday. ... The
Cardinals have won six in a row at home. ... Albert Pujols hasn't
homered in eight games, his longest drought of the season. ...
Guillen has eight hits in his last 19 at-bats. ... Brian Schneider
is in a 4-for-37 slump. ... The 1941 team has the best start in
Cardinals history, going 34-14 through 48 games.