"He had great life on the ball inside, obviously he hides it
well and he was throwing a great sinker," Rolen said. "We were
kind of happy to see him go after seven.
"I think he would have gone out for the eighth if they didn't
score, and maybe it worked out better for us."
St. Louis, which reopened a five-game lead over second-place
Cincinnati in the NL Central, sent the Marlins to their second
straight loss following a nine-game winning streak. After losing 14
of their first 22 games in August while their lead shrunk to one
percentage point, the Cardinals won five of their final six.
"We haven't been as consistent as we have obviously for the
last couple of years, but this is a different team," Rolen said.
"We're five games up right now and that's a good spot to be when
the sky was falling a week ago."
Despite Willis' strong outing Florida dropped three games back
of San Diego, the NL wild-card leader.
Pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo's bases-loaded infield hit off Braden Looper (8-1) put Florida ahead 2-1 in the eighth. Olivo, one of the
fastest-running catchers in the majors, had been in an 0-for-15
slump before his slow dribbler down the third-base line.
Without that hit, Willis would have come back out for the eighth
despite throwing 108 pitches.
"I'm used to having high pitch counts and this is no
different," Willis said. "We had to get some bats in there and I
was struggling at the plate, so I felt Skip made the right call."
Sergio Mitre (1-5) relieved Willis to start the bottom
half, and Duncan hit his first pitch over the right-field wall, a
drive estimated at 428 feet. It was his third pinch homer, his
second this season.
"I wanted to be really aggressive and I wanted to hit the first
fastball that was in the strike zone," Duncan said. "He tried to
get ahead with a fastball and he left it over the plate."
In Mitre's six previous relief appearances, he had not allowed a
run in six innings. But in two appearances against the Cardinals he
has allowed 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Albert Pujols walked, took third when Mitre threw wildly to
first for an error on a pickoff attempt, then scored on Rolen's
single. Juan Encarnacion doubled to chase Mitre, Ronnie Belliard
added a run-scoring single off Taylor Tankersley and pinch-hitter
Scott Spiezio hit a sacrifice fly.
Jason Isringhausen got three outs for his 32nd save in 41
Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan allowed one run and six hits in
seven innings and has give up one run in his last two starts, a
span of 14 2/3 innings.
"I think you have quicker innings, I think you have a better
rhythm," Suppan said. "I think when you're pitching well, you can
Willis gave up a run and six hits in seven innings.
Hanley Ramirez, who is among the league leaders with 42
steals, was thrown out for the 10th time -- on a pitchout in the
third by Yadier Molina. He stole successfully in the seventh to
beat a one-hop throw. ... Molina missed the previous five starts
due to an elbow injury. ... The Marlins were without Miguel Cabrera, among the league leaders with 99 RBI. Cabrera, who was
hit on the left biceps by a pitch Wednesday, is day to day. ... The
Cardinals' Jose Vizcaino is 2-for-22 as a pinch hitter after taking
a called third strike in the seventh. ... Looper's victory total is
two more than his previous career best, in 2003 with Florida. ...
The Marlins fell to 12-2 in series finales since the All-Star