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Jenkins stuns Cards with game-winning homer in ninth

Sep 20, 2006 - 4:05 PM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Geoff Jenkins' Achilles heel this year has been facing lefthanded pitchers, but it didn't faze him in the clutch on Wednesday.

Jenkins lined a game-winning homer in the ninth inning and rookie Carlos Villanueva and two relievers combined for a four-hit shutout as the Milwaukee Brewers edged the St. Louis Cardinals, 1-0, in the rubber game of a three-game series.

With the setback, the magic number for the Cardinals (80-70) remained at five for clinching their third consecutive National League Central Division title. St. Louis squandered an opportunity to move closer to capturing the division since Cincinnati lost, 7-2, to Houston earlier Wednesday.

"Regardless of what anyone else is doing, we've got to go out and do the things we need to win games," Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan said. "Our focus is the game at hand and that's what helps us out in the end."

Entering the contest with a .130 (12-for-92) batting average and a homer against lefthander pitchers this season, Jenkins had a minor statistical improvement in a major way.

In a scoreless tie, Jenkins deposited the third pitch he saw from reliever Tyler Johnson (0-3) into the right field seats. It was his 16th homer of the year and second career game-winning home run. The lefthanded hitter's last shot against a lefty was off Darren Oliver of the New York Mets on April 16.

"In that situation, it's big to do it against anybody, right or lefty, but obviously it's good to put a nice swing on the lefty," Jenkins said. "The walk-off was an awesome feeling. There's no better feeling when you're coming around third base and see your teammates waiting on you.

"I knew I hit it hard, but at first I was thinking it would be a double," Jenkins added. "It was one of those low-trajectory balls. Against those type of guys that have got a good sweeping slider and hard fastball, especially lefthanded, you get one pitch to hit and you take advantage of it, and luckily I did."

Johnson said he left a slider over the middle of the plate.

"You lose games when stuff like that happens," Johnson said. "Mistakes happen. Maybe I should have mixed it up a little bit. It's my bad."

Despite failing to earn a decision, Villanueva tossed seven scoreless innings, yielding just three hits - two singles and a double - and a walk. The 22-year-old Dominican righthander did not allow a baserunner past second base. He struck out five, throwing 62 of 104 pitches for strikes.

"I can't complain about this one," Villanueva said. "We prepared pretty well for this one. I saw a lot of video of them and got together with (pitching coach Mike) Maddux and (catcher Damian) Miller and really executed the gameplan to a pinpoint. It's good preparation and a good outing."

Villanueva allowed one run in six emergency innings at Washington on September 15 when starter Tomo Ohka left the game with an injury. Villanueva will fill Ohka's spot in the rotation for the remainder of the season and is auditioning for a slot in the Brewers' 2007 rotation.

"He (Villanueva) continues to pitch well here at this level," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He's really made huge strides as a major league pitcher this year. That's two back-to-back games as good as you'll see. He's got so many pitches he throws for strikes and he's not intimidated by anybody."

Chris Spurling worked a scoreless eighth and Francisco Cordero (3-0) threw a perfect ninth to earn the win and preserve the shutout.

Suppan produced another superb performance against Milwaukee at Miller Park, where he entered 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in six career starts. He pitched seven scoreless frames while allowing six hits and a walk. The righthander struck out four

"I just come out here and try to make pitches and today I got in a few jams but was able to get out of it," Suppan said. "Unfortunately, (Villanueva) was throwing a great game and he came out on top."

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