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Cardinals look to close in on NL Central crown

Sep 30, 2006 - 2:14 PM Milwaukee (74-86) at St Louis (82-77) 1:25 pm EDT

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- The St. Louis Cardinals need another strong outing by Jeff Suppan against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cardinals and Suppan host the Brewers in the third contest of a four-game series on Saturday with a possible chance to clinch the National League Central.

Following a 10-5 victory Friday, St. Louis increased its lead to 1 1/2 games in the National League Central Division while reducing its magic number for clinching a third straight division title to two. Albert Pujols and Preston Wilson both homered and Yadier Molina drove in two runs.

Earlier Friday, Houston fell, 4-1, to Atlanta. With another win by St. Louis and a loss by Houston Saturday, the Cardinals would claim the Central.

Suppan (12-7, 4.18 ERA) is 12-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 20 career appearances - 19 starts - against the Brewers, including a 1-0 record with a 2.59 ERA in four starts this year.

However, the righthander was charged for five runs - four earned - and six hits in 3 2/3 innings in Monday's 6-5 setback to San Diego. Suppan, who did not figure in the decision, walked three and struck out just two.

Milwaukee will try to make things difficult behind the arm of Ben Sheets (6-7, 4.05), who has had very little success against St. Louis in his career, going 4-13 with a 4.24 ERA in 20 starts. The righthander is also 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA in two outings against the Cardinals this season.

Sheets pitched eight solid frames in a 5-3 triumph over San Francisco on Sunday. He yielded two runs and five hits, striking out six without a walk.

Rookie Prince Fielder and Bill Hall hit back-to-back homers for the Brewers in Friday's shortcoming.

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