09/19/06 7:45 PM ET
Notes: Duncan part of youth movement
Miller Park serves as Suppan's home away from home
By JR Radcliffe / Special to MLB.com
"I don't compare year-to-year," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said when asked if this was the best group of rookies he had seen. "You just have to say this year, it's a very strong group. I saw in the paper the other day that it listed a lot of good candidates and [Duncan] wasn't mentioned. So yeah, I think he gets overlooked."
The reigning National League Rookie of the Month, Duncan has slipped off the radar in his battle to get noticed, batting just .191 in September. But after a pinch-hit single Monday in Milwaukee, his batting average sat at .303 for the year, well above the .261 career standard he set in the Minors since becoming a first-round choice by St. Louis in the 1999 draft.
Duncan hit two home runs on Friday and now has 15 since the All-Star break, the second most by a Cardinals rookie after the Midsummer Classic since Albert Pujols collected 16 in 2001. Duncan entered Tuesday's game in Milwaukee tied for fifth among National League rookies in home runs with 18 overall, though his clip of one homer per 12.95 at-bats was best among all rookies in the Majors.
All of this comes from a player not considered one of the team's top 10 prospects before the season, at least not according to Baseball America, while teammates Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright were more highly touted as some of baseball's top youngsters. Still, Duncan was not interested in hearing about his candidacy for the trophy awarding best newcomer.
"I don't even want to talk about that stuff," he said.
Pujols hit 37 homers in 2001, easily the best season home run total for a Cardinals rookie. Duncan is tied for fourth in that regard with Ken Boyer (1955) and Joe Medwick (1933), one behind the 19 Johnny Mize hit in 1936. Ray Jablonski's 21 in 1953 is second most.
Miller magic: Jeff Suppan may just prefer Miller to Busch.
The team's Wednesday starter in the series finale against Milwaukee has more wins against the Brewers (12) than any other team, with his second most being eight victories against the Detroit Tigers. He has a 12-2 record with a 3.55 ERA against the Brewers and thrives especially at Miller Park, where he is 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA. In six games at that location, he has held opponents to a .211 batting average.
"If you have success, you have some confidence," La Russa said. "But they've got different lineups, it's a different club in many ways. In Suppan's case, I'm sure he comes in here with some confidence because he's always been good against the competition."
It also helps that the Cardinals entered Tuesday with a 29-17 overall record at the stadium, as well as an 80-52 all-time series advantage.
Streaking, kind of: With the Mets officially claiming the National League East title and putting the Atlanta Braves' run of 14 straight divisional championships to bed, the Cardinals now have the longest current streak of consecutive division titles in the NL with two, looking for a third. St. Louis, entering Tuesday with a magic number of seven, is currently seeking to clinch the division title in three consecutive seasons for just the second time in franchise history, last completed in 1942-44.
Up next: Suppan (12-7, 4.23) is 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his last five starts, factors that match favorably with his dominance at Miller Park. Milwaukee's Carlos Villanueva (1-1, 4.05), a September callup from Triple-A Nashville, will oppose in Wednesday's series finale at 7:05 p.m. CT.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.