Notes: Offense beginning to heat up

Notes: Offense coming to life

ST. LOUIS -- In five April games against the Pirates, the Cardinals scored 12 runs, picked up nine extra-base hits and cranked exactly one home run. In their first two games against Pittsburgh in May, St. Louis has already plated 14 runs, collected six long hits and left the park four times.

It's a good apples-to-apples comparison that illuminates the improvement in the St. Louis offense. Most notable was Wednesday, when the Redbirds hit three homers against Ian Snell -- a man who shut them down twice in April.

Which is not to say that they're sure to keep hitting, but the upswing is a bright spot for a team looking for all the rays of sunshine it can find.

"This is Major League pitching," said manager Tony La Russa. "If the guy has got good stuff and he's got real good command, then even though you may go about it perfect, you just don't do much. What you've got to be able to do is take advantage of mistakes, or a guy who's not quite as good. We've missed guys who really weren't very good that day."

Edmonds goes very deep: Of all the encouraging events on offense in recent days, perhaps none tops Jim Edmonds' home run on Wednesday night. Not only did Edmonds hit one out for only the second time this year, but he pulled a ball -- and he crushed it, 425 feet to right field. It was his first homer to right this year, a very good sign for a man who, at his best, is an attacking hitter with an uppercut swing.

And his teammates surely noticed.

"I got real excited, especially because of how far it went," David Eckstein said. "That was something big. If he gets that stroke back, it's going to just help this club out. For him to hit the ball like we know he can hit it, I got real excited actually."

Jason Isringhausen only saw the blast on replay, but it got his attention as well.

"He hit that one a long way," Isringhausen said. "When was the last time we saw him do that? He did it in Chicago, and I'm not taking anything away from Jimmy, but it was a windy day and he hit it [to the] opposite field. To do that here, this field plays pretty big. For him to put a charge in one like that, it's nice to see."

Franklin still out: Ryan Franklin was unavailable for a second straight day on Thursday as he continues to deal with strep throat. It's unclear when Franklin will be available to pitch again, but the Cardinals have chosen not to make a roster move at this time.

Good combination: After Gary Bennett caught Kip Wells' win on Wednesday night, it's likely that Bennett will be behind the plate for Wells' next start also. Wells had lost seven straight starts before Wednesday. His next game is Monday at Coors Field, with Jeff Francis starting for the Rockies. Bennett, a career .241 hitter, has hit .269 in 65 games in Denver.

This date in Cardinals history: On May 24, 2006, the Cardinals beat the Giants in a "bullpen game," 10-4 at AT&T Park. Adam Wainwright picked up the win by pitching three innings, and the rookie helped himself out by hitting a home run on the first pitch of his Major League career as a batter.

Baby 'Birds: John Nelson's three-run homer in the ninth inning gave Triple-A Memphis an 8-5 win over Nashville on Wednesday. Edgar Gonzalez went 3-for-4 in the win, giving him 13 hits and five walks in his last nine games. ... Colby Rasmus singled, drew three walks and hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th inning Wednesday as Double-A Springfield beat San Antonio, 3-2. Chris Perez struck out five batters over the final two innings for the win, capping off an outstanding showing by Springfield relievers. Perez, Jason Motte and Michael Cooper combined for five shutout innings with one hit, three walks and nine K's. ... Adam Daniels deserved better, but took the loss in Class A Palm Beach's 3-1 defeat against Fort Myers on Wednesday. Daniels allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked one. ... Brandon Buckman went 3-for-4, raising his season average to .355, to help Class A Quad Cities beat South Bend, 6-2, on Wednesday.

Nelson is the player of the day. The infielder went 2-for-5 with five RBIs, including the game-winning homer. It's been a difficult year for Nelson, a shortstop by trade who has played third base and the outfield as well as his normal position this season. He's batting .180 with a .250 on-base percentage and a .380 slugging percentage.

Coming up: The Cardinals and Nationals begin a three-game series on Friday, the first meeting between the two teams this year. Anthony Reyes will again attempt to gain his elusive first win, facing Micah Bowie. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. CT.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.