He hit for average, racking up three base hits in four at-bats. He hit for power, with all three of those hits going for extra bases and bringing him four RBIs. He flashed speed, motoring around for a triple when Jeromy Burnitz misplayed a ball. And he played defense, making a sensational diving, tumbling catch on a Ronny Paulino liner.
The only shame was that nobody tested Encarnacion's throwing arm.
It was all most welcome for a player whose error total (two) equaled the combined sum of his extra-base hits (one) and RBIs (one) before Tuesday night.
"When you're not doing what you should do, it's tough all the time," said Encarnacion, who signed a three-year contract to come to St. Louis over the winter. "It comes more easily when you just go out and see the ball and hit it. I felt pretty good tonight."
Encarnacion's outburst was part of a strong showing up and down the St. Louis lineup. The Cards banged out 12 hits, reaching double figures in base knocks for the fourth time in five games on their current homestand. Five different players scored a run, and five Cardinals reached base at least twice. Every position player starter but So Taguchi got on base at least once.
But it was Encarnacion who starred. He dropped an RBI double to right field to make it 2-0 in the first. After Pittsburgh took the lead in the top of the third at 3-2, his two-run dinger gave the advantage back to the Redbirds. He capped it off with a fifth-inning RBI triple.
"That shows you what he's capable of doing," said manager Tony La Russa. "[Pirates starter Victor] Santos has got some nasty stuff, and that's what Juan can do. [Santos] got a breaking ball up a little bit, and it was a home run -- [and Encarnacion] sliced a couple other hits."
Encarnacion showed an admirable ability to go to right field, which can be tough for a struggling hitter. He was able to take pitcher's pitches and poke them the other way twice, though his home run was to left field.
"Every time you're doing something to help the team, it's good," Encarnacion said. "I haven't been doing that the whole time I've been here. I'll try to carry that over to tomorrow."
Jeff Suppan tossed seven effective innings for his first win of 2006, working around three unearned runs in the third inning to beat a team that knocked him around a week earlier. Suppan (1-2) held the Bucs to four hits and didn't issue a walk, lowering his ERA by more than three runs.
Suppan had been lugging around a 9.00 ERA all week after being chased for eight runs in two innings at PNC Park last week.
|"Every time you're doing something to help the team, it's good. I haven't been doing that the whole time I've been here. I'll try to carry that over to tomorrow."|
|-- Juan Encarnacion|
"In those situations, you've really got to focus on what you need to do to improve," Suppan said. "Going out there and constantly beating yourself up about what you did in your previous outing is not going to help you in this outing."
Handed a 2-0 lead, Suppan found himself in trouble in the third. Paulino picked up a one-out base hit, and Gary Bennett was called for catcher's interference on Santos' sacrifice attempt. A hit batter loaded the bases, and Jack Wilson's single made it 2-1.
Suppan struck out Jason Bay, but Craig Wilson dropped a bloop single between second baseman Hector Luna and center fielder Jim Edmonds for two runs, giving the Pirates the lead.
The lead was brief, though. Edmonds drew a two-out walk from Santos in the bottom of the third, and Encarnacion followed with a 392-foot homer on a full-count pitch.
"It was two outs and nobody on, and Jimmy gets a walk and then a home run," La Russa said. "I've been on the other side of that, the other dugout. You think, 'Wow, just got by two and three [in the lineup], two outs, nobody on.' You're looking at a zero. And next thing you know you've got two against you."
Suppan cruised through the next four innings, retiring 12 in a row before a seventh-inning single by Paulino. Braden Looper and Jason Isringhausen tossed a drama-free eighth and ninth, respectively, with Isringhausen picking up his sixth save.
Scott Spiezio added his second home run for the Cardinals, who have won 23 of their last 28 meetings with the Pirates. St. Louis has won eight out of 10 overall and is 8-3 at new Busch Stadium since the ballpark opened.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.