Taguchi matched career highs with four hits and three RBIs, and Jeff Suppan pitched seven strong innings to win for the third time in four starts in an 8-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
“We said last year that if he played more, it looked like he would do more,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “And he’s playing more and doing more.”
Jim Edmonds had a pair of run-scoring singles, one on a bunt, and Albert Pujols had two hits and an RBI to help the Cardinals beat the Diamondbacks for the 11th time in 13 games over the last three seasons.
Luis Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the fourth for Arizona, a season-worst eight games below .500. That was the only damage against Suppan (12-8), who matched his season best with seven strikeouts and walked none.
“He’s not a guy that’s going to blow the ball by you, but he has good command of all his pitches,” Gonzalez said. “He works you in and out and around the strike zone.
“After that one pitch to me, the cutter in, I didn’t see that cutter anymore from him.”
Taguchi, starting because outfielders Larry Walker and Reggie Sanders are on the 15-day disabled list, had his second career four-hit game and first since May 20, 2004, at the New York Mets. He has six three-RBI games, five this season, and is batting .424 (25-for-59) with runners in scoring position.
“Since I’ve been here, he’s the MVP of the team,” said reserve outfielder Skip Schumacher, called up last week from the minors.
Taguchi singled and scored in the first, doubled and scored in the third, hit an RBI double in the sixth and a two-run double in the seventh. In 59 starts, he’s hitting .331. He also is batting .500 (16-for-32) during a career-best nine-game hitting streak. He is hitting .303 overall in 264 at-bats after getting 179 at-bats last year.
“Tony gives me a lot of playing time, so I’m very happy,” Taguchi said. “I’m not a regular. Larry and Reggie are on the DL and when they come back, I’m back on the bench.”
Suppan gave up five hits and kept the ball down, allowing only two flyouts and striking out the 3-4-5 hitters in the sixth, to beat the Diamondbacks for the second time in a little more than a month. He also won July 5 in Arizona.
“I don’t remember the last time I struck out the side,” Suppan said. “Tonight was one of those nights where I was changing speeds better than I have in a while.”
Brad Halsey (8-9) lasted 5 1-3 innings and gave up five runs, four earned, and nine hits. It was the second straight shaky outing for Halsey, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 10 1-3 innings during that stretch after going 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his previous five games.
“You work hard each week and sometimes things get a little bit out of synch and you work hard just to get them back to be where they need to be,” Halsey said. “I was a little bit off tonight and sometimes I’m going to be on and get hit around like that.”
Halsey got into immediate trouble when David Eckstein walked and Taguchi singled to open the first. They pulled off a double steal on Mark Grudzielanek’s strikeout. Eckstein scored on Edmonds’ bunt single, and Taguchi also came home when catcher Kelly Stinnett threw the ball away for an error.
Taguchi and Pujols hit consecutive one-out doubles in the third for a 3-0 lead before Gonzalez’s 17th homer, and first in nine games, cut the deficit to one in the fourth.
Three straight two-out singles in the fifth by Pujols, Grudzielanek and Edmonds made it 4-2. Taguchi’s RBI double in the sixth off Greg Aquino gave the Cardinals a three-run cushion and Eckstein added a run-scoring single off Brandon Lyon in the seventh.
Grudzielanek batted cleanup for the second time in his career, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles in an injury-riddled lineup minus four regulars. He also hit fourth on Aug. 9 against the Brewers, driving in two runs. … A crowd of 42,198 was the Cardinals’ 29th sellout and the 22nd straight game with more than 40,000 in attendance. … Cardinals starters lead the major leagues by far with 64 wins. The White Sox were second with 55.