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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Clutch hitting gives Cards opener

Clutch hitting gives Cards opener
04/16/2008 12:55 AM ET
By Matthew Leach /

ST. LOUIS -- Never mind the second leadoff man. For the Cardinals on Tuesday night, it was all about the third leadoff man.

In a rare matchup of National League teams that bat their pitchers eighth, the No. 7 hitter in the Cardinals' lineup did the table-setting. Adam Kennedy was in the middle of three rallies with three singles as the Cardinals beat the Brewers, 6-1, at Busch Stadium. St. Louis is now 1 1/2 games clear of Milwaukee and the Cubs in the NL Central and is tied with Arizona for baseball's best record at 10-4.

The Cardinals won with 12 hits, 11 of them singles, from eight different players. Seven different Redbirds either scored a run, drove one in, or both.

"Up and down the lineup, everybody's going to need to do a little part each night," Kennedy said. "We can't leave it all up to the big boys."

On this night, very little was left up to the heart of the order. Rather, it was the turnover from the bottom of the lineup to the top that made things work. Kennedy and No. 9 hitter Cesar Izturis combined for four hits, while Skip Schumaker and Chris Duncan totaled three RBIs in the one and two spots.

"[Izturis] could lead off, no problem," Schumaker said. "And I think [Kennedy] could lead off. So I think having those guys in the seven and nine spots, and them getting on base, it's just like having a leadoff guy on. So if those guys get on, that lineup really works out well."

Schumaker's two RBIs were his first and second of the season. After a 1-for-20 start, he's 11-for-24 (.458) in the past six games, scoring eight runs.

With the scored tied at 1, Kennedy led off the fifth inning with a single. Two outs later, he was only at second, but Schumaker poked a single to left field that scored him. Schumaker took second on the throw home and scored the third run when Duncan singled.

"It's nice to get the first one of those," Schumaker said. "It took me a while to get my first RBI, and it was a good time for it."

Two innings later, Schumaker stretched the lead when his two-out double again scored Kennedy -- who again had led off the inning with a single. This time, Kennedy had motored all the way to third base on a routine 6-3 groundout.

"You can be a little bit more aggressive when you're [ahead], late in the game," Kennedy said. "So I was just doing exactly that -- hit-and-run, so I had some good momentum going to third anyway."

Starter Braden Looper improved to 3-0 despite being less than sharp. He lasted five-plus innings, and though he held the potent Milwaukee lineup to a single run, he issued five free passes. After being handed the lead in the fifth, Looper walked the first two batters in the sixth and he was removed for Kyle McClellan.

The rookie starred once again, getting a double-play grounder from Bill Hall and making it through the next inning with only a hit batter blemishing his pitching line. McClellan has been exceptional for St. Louis, repeatedly getting big outs in critical situations.

"I'm here, and regardless of my experience, I know what kind of pitcher I am," McClellan said. "Regardless of experience, I think it's all what pitches you make. I don't put too much into where I was last year or where I'm going to be tomorrow. I just know that when I'm out there, I've got to get outs."

Ryan Franklin and Anthony Reyes each pitched an inning of scoreless relief behind McClellan, keeping the Cardinals tied for the fewest runs allowed in the National League with 47.

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