WASHINGTON (AP)—St. Louis pitcher Jeff Suppan broke one of baseball’s cardinal rules: Touch a ball in foul territory to prevent it from rolling fair.
Suppan’s momentary indecision on Jose Guillen’s swinging bunt in the fourth cost the Cardinals as the Washington Nationals went on to score two runs in the inning in their 4-1 victory on Friday night.
“Suppan thought it was foul and let it roll,” Washington manager Frank Robinson said. “That’s the first time I’ve seen that.”
The Nationals, who had lost six of nine games, trailed Philadelphia by 2 1/2 games in the NL wild-card race entering Friday’s games.
Suppan (12-10) had a five-start road winning streak snapped as the Cardinals lost for only the sixth time in 15 road games. But he didn’t help his own cause when he failed to corral Guillen’s foul chopper that rolled back into fair territory.
Guillen, who never stopped running, was past first base before Albert Pujols reached down and picked up the ball.
“It kind of sets the tone. … Take nothing for granted—run hard, play hard,” Robinson said.
Suppan said he waited for a second—then didn’t react.
“By the time I got to the ball, I was parallel with (Guillen). I kind of waited for a second and as I waited, it kept rolling in,” he said. “I went after the ball hard, and I wasn’t going to let it roll back fair, but …”
Preston Wilson’s single moved Guillen to third and he scored on Brad Schneider’s hard smash off the glove of a diving Pujols, the second infield hit of the inning. After Vinny Castilla grounded into a double play, Cristian Guzman walked and Loaiza lined an RBI single up the middle.
“Breaks are part of the game. … Bad hops shouldn’t be the reason you give up runs,” said Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa.
Loaiza (9-9) allowed one run and three hits over seven-plus innings, walked four and struck out seven. He won for the third time in four starts. At one point, he fanned five straight hitters and six of seven.
“I was just throwing my pitches for strikes and whatever happened, happened. I got some strikeouts and I worked quick. I wanted to work fast and try to get guys out,” Loaiza said.
Suppan (12-10) went six innings, giving up four runs and eight hits. He walked four and struck out five.
St. Louis is 3-2 on a 13-game road trip, its longest of the season. The Cardinals came into the game a season-best 34 games over .500 and 13 1/2 games ahead of second-place Houston in the NL Central.
Wilkerson’s 10th homer of the season put the Nationals ahead 1-0. It was Wilkerson’s third leadoff homer this year and 15th of his career.
In the fifth, Guillen tripled off the top of the wall in center with one out and scored on Wilson’s sacrifice fly.
After the game, the Nationals optioned RHP Travis Hughes to Triple-A New Orleans and selected the contract of LHP Matt White from New Orleans. White will start Saturday. … Wilkerson, who led the majors with nine leadoff homers in 2004, has homered in consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 13-14, 2004. He also walked three times. … Cardinals SS David Eckstein had his 42nd multihit game of the year. … St. Louis fell to 16-5 on Fridays and 31-11 in the first game of a series. .. Castilla grounded into his team-high 11th double play. … Loaiza walked more than three batters for only the second time in 27 starts.