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10/07/06 4:43 PM ET

Cardinals Short Hops: Game 3

Padres figure out Pujols in time to avoid sweep

ST. LOUIS -- Fielding the Cardinals' Game 3 loss against the Padres on a short hop ...

In < 25 words...
The Padres derailed Albert Pujols, striking him out twice -- including fanning him with two on in the sixth. Jeff Suppan couldn't solve the Padres.

Frozen moment
Pujols struck out and Jim Edmonds laced a liner to deep left-center that left fielder Dave Roberts made an over-the-shoulder grab on before slamming into the fence, preserving the Padres' 3-0 lead after six innings.

Big numbers
Fourteen. In three starts this season, the Padres' offense has scorched Suppan for 14 earned runs in 14 innings. Since July 1, the right-hander has worked less than five innings in three starts, including two vs. San Diego.

Game balls
Josh Hancock, four. The right-hander, suffering from an abdominal strain during the last week of the regular season, pitched brilliantly in his first career playoff appearance. Seeing work for the first time since Sept. 26, he worked out of two-on, one-out jam in the fifth and tossed a scoreless sixth.

So Taguchi, four. The Japanese native's pinch-hit homer leading off the eighth was the Redbirds' only offensive source.

Albert Pujols, two. Pujols saved a run with a great first-inning play, but couldn't carry the offense for the third straight game. He struck out twice, grounded into a double play and left four runners on base in four at-bats.

Jeff Suppan, two. The right-hander couldn't beat his season-long nemesis, permitting three runs in just 4 1/3 innings. Suppan's start marked just the second time he worked fewer than 15 outs in a home start this year.

Chris Duncan, two. The rookie had an adventure in left field, misplaying two fly balls and nearly misjudging another. Fortunately, none of the misplays led to a run. Offensively, he drew two walks, setting up some opportunities for Pujols.

Sense of October
Cardinal Nation was out in full force Saturday afternoon, waving promotional towels, delivering standing ovations for great first-inning defensive plays and chanting "Let's Go Cardinals" when the Cardinals started a rally and "MVP" for Pujols. Still, the largest crowd of the season (46,634) remained silent for most of the afternoon.

Lines of the Game
Cardinals' Nos. 2-6 hitters
17 AB, 0 H, 3 BB, 8 K
Comment: When the heart of the order -- especially Pujols -- doesn't hit, the Cardinals have little chance to win.

Jeff Suppan
4 1/3 IP, 3 R, 6 H, 3 K, 2 BB
Comment: One of the few times Suppan hasn't delivered in a big game.

Next step
Chris Carpenter will try to wrap up the Division Series on Sunday. The Majors' best home pitcher (1.81 ERA), the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner will face either Game 1 starter Jake Peavy, pitching on three days' rest, or former Cardinal Woody Williams.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.