Cincinnati (73-87) at St. Louis (98-62)

Fair Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 69° F
  • Game info: 4:15 pm EDT Sat Oct 1, 2005
Preview | Box Score | Recap

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa is using the final weekend of the regular season to set up his pitching staff for the playoffs.

Jason Marquis will start in place of Jeff Suppan when the NL Central champions continue their regular season-ending three-game set with the visiting Cincinnati Reds.

La Russa said he was going with Marquis against the Reds in the next-to-last game of the season “because we want to beat Cincinnati and he’s pitched better against Cincinnati.” He said Suppan would be ready this weekend in case one of his starters gets knocked out early, but added he also wanted to get his bullpen ready for the postseason.

“Suppan’s put in his season, he’s had his hell of a year,” La Russa said. “So he doesn’t need tomorrow to be ready for the playoffs.”

Beyond that, La Russa wouldn’t say.

“You asked about tomorrow, right?” he said. “That’s the answer for tomorrow. How many times do we have to say we’re only talking about the weekend?

“It’s not the time to talk about the playoffs.”

Two days off in the final week, on Monday and Thursday, forced a decision for La Russa. Suppan is 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA, and Marquis, a harder thrower, is 13-14 with a 4.03 ERA.

The first three in the Cardinals’ postseason rotation appears set with Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder and Matt Morris. Game 4 would be next Sunday on the road.

Suppan, whose last outing was Sunday, pitched on more than 10 days’ rest in his playoff debut. He won two games in the playoffs last fall, the clinchers in both the division series and NLCS. This after being the rotation member most likely to get bumped, until Carpenter was sidelined with a biceps injury.

“As a starter you have to be able to adapt to what is put in front of you,” Suppan said. “Obviously, you don’t like to wait that long but sometimes you have to.”

Suppan learned the news on Friday and didn’t seem upset.

“Obviously, if you get the opportunity that’s great,” Suppan said. “Everyone has pitched well this year, everyone deserves to start.

“Really I’m just getting ready to pitch, whenever that is.”

Marquis endured a midseason stretch in which he won only one of 13 starts but has recovered in recent outings. He’s 4-1 in his last five starts with a 1.38 ERA, including seven innings against the Reds on Sept. 21 in which he allowed one run.

Marquis didn’t read anything into this start leading to a playoff start.

“If it does, it does,” Marquis said. “I’ll be prepared, I’ll be ready to go.”

The Cardinals hardly looked like a team playing out the string Friday. Albert Pujols hit a grand slam for his 200th career homer as St. Louis overcame 10 walks from its pitching staff to outslug Cincinnati 12-6 in the series opener.

David Eckstein matched his season high with four hits, drove in two runs and had a steal for the Cardinals, who are 4-8 since clinching the Central. St. Louis needs to sweep the series to reach 100 victories in consecutive seasons for only the second time in franchise history.

Felipe Lopez had two hits and two RBIs for the Reds, who have lost five of six.

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9-11 Record 13-14
5.36 ERA 4.13
96 K 100
51 BB 69
1.50 WHIP 1.33