Edmonds ignites Cards

Sunday, July 11, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- A healthy Jim Edmonds is making a big impact on the St. Louis Cardinals' perfect homestand.

Edmonds homered for the fourth straight game, and Jeff Suppan worked six strong innings to help the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-2 on Saturday for their eighth consecutive victory.

Edmonds missed five starts in center field at the end of last month and early July with a groin injury, but the team has clicked since his return.

"I think those couple of days off helped a lot," Edmonds said. "I'm just trying to stay in the lineup and do my job."

Ray Lankford, Hector Luna and So Taguchi each drove in a run for the NL Central leaders, who are 8-0 on the homestand with one game to go before the All-Star break. They have won 10 straight at home overall. The Cardinals are 31-8 against the Cubs at Busch Stadium since 2000 and have an NL-best 54 victories.

Manager Tony La Russa wants to make sure nobody relaxes.

"We barely won that game," La Russa said. "Especially in the Central, you cannot have an easy series. We're in the same position we've been in for a while: Keep pushing, keep the edge, keep cranking, all that stuff that sounds a little corny but it's absolutely the mind-set we have to have."

Sammy Sosa was 2-for-4 with a homer and double but fouled out against Jason Isringhausen with a runner on in the eighth and the Cardinals leading 3-2, when catcher Mike Matheny reached into the around the screen behind the plate and into the seats to make the grab.

"What amazed me was the fans didn't get in the way," Matheny said. "That out meant more to them than a foul ball. Fortunately, there weren't any Cub fans there."

The Cubs have lost five in a row, totaling just five runs during the slump.

"It's natural to get down," manager Dusty Baker said. "The key is you can't stay down. The sun is going to come up tomorrow for most of us."

During the homestand, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents 45-13. The game drew a standing-room crowd of 50,569, the largest regular-season attendance since the team removed several thousand seats and installed a manually operated scoreboard in 1997.

The previous best was Friday night's crowd of 49,675.

Matt Clement (7-8) paid for a slow start, giving up three runs in the first, and is 0-4 in his last six starts. Clement has pitched well during that stretch with a 2.15 ERA but has received only 10 runs of support.

"I'm pretty happy with the way I'm throwing the ball," Clement said. "They're beating me by one run or 3-2 or 1-0, and that just means I've got to figure out a way to be a little bit better."

Suppan (8-5) allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings with five strikeouts and no walks. In his last three starts, Suppan is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

Five relievers combined on hitless relief the last three innings. Isringhausen got five outs for his 21st save in 25 chances.

The bullpen has allowed two earned runs in the last 29 innings.

Tony Womack walked to start the bottom of the first and went to third on Clement's wild pickoff throw. Lankford, making his first start since June 30, followed with an RBI single.

With two outs, Edmonds hit his 20th homer over the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead. Edmonds is batting .255 against the Cubs with 19 strikeouts in 47 at-bats but has six homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games.

Sosa doubled to start the second and scored on a one-out double by Derrek Lee. Sosa hit his 15th homer -- his first in a week -- with one out in the sixth.

Luna had an RBI double and Taguchi added a run-scoring single in the eighth against Glendon Rusch.

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