ST. LOUIS -- A day before closer Jason Isringhausen's return, Jeff Suppan gave the St. Louis Cardinals' weary bullpen a needed break.
Suppan pitched seven strong innings in the Cardinals' 9-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
"The last couple of innings were the most efficient he was the whole game," manager Tony La Russa said. "He did that last year for us a lot.
"Just when you needed him is when he shows up the biggest."
Larry Walker had three hits of the Cardinals' season-high 19 hits and drove in three runs and David Eckstein was 4-for-5 with an RBI to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. St. Louis, which has won seven of eight at home against the Dodgers counting the playoffs, had 12 two-out hits and only three extra-base hits.
"As the game wore on, if they hit the ball it was going to find grass," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "They had a number of flare basehits, but they beat us."
Twelve of the hits came off Brad Penny (2-1), who lasted 4 2/3 innings and allowed six runs in his fourth start following a biceps injury last August.
"I was throwing strikes but they weren't quality strikes," Penny said. "My ball was up in the zone and they took advantage of it."
Suppan, who beat Los Angeles in the clinching fourth game of the divisional round, got his first career regular-season victory over the Dodgers in four decisions. Suppan (3-3) gave up three runs on nine hits with a season-best seven strikeouts and no walks, and added an RBI single in a three-run fifth that put the Cardinals ahead 6-3.
The Cardinals will activate Isringhausen, who had a right abdominal strain, from the 15-day disabled list Thursday. Because Suppan went seven innings, they were able to finish the game with two relievers.
"I try to go long every time, but I can't pitch in the seventh if I'm not getting outs in the first," Suppan said. "Later in the game I was able to locate my pitches better."
Los Angeles' Hee-Seop Choi, who withstood a collision at first base Tuesday that forced St. Louis' Scott Rolen out of the game with a sprained left shoulder, was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Choi hit the go-ahead three-run home run and had four RBI on Tuesday, although a couple of hard-hit balls eluded him early in the game.
"Am I going to cast a spear in the direction of somebody that you know is trying as hard as he can?" Tracy said. "No, I'm not going to do that."
Both starters lived dangerously. The Dodgers got a leadoff hit in each of the first five innings, and the Cardinals had eight hits in the first three innings.
Cesar Izturis lead off the game with a double and scored on Jeff Kent's one-out sacrifice fly to give the Dodgers the lead. The Cardinals answered with three straight one-out hits and a run-scoring groundout by Roger Cedeno to tie it in the bottom of the first, then took the lead on Walker's two-out single in the second.
Izturis led off the third with an infield hit, Choi followed with an RBI triple and scored on J.D. Drew's groundout to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. The Cardinals tied it in the bottom of the third on a pair of two-out hits, John Mabry's single and Mark Grudzielanek's triple.
RBI singles by Suppan and Eckstein in the fifth both challenged the arm of center fielder Milton Bradley, who was a shade late each time, and a third run scored on Walker's two-out bunt when Suppan crossed the plate before third baseman Olmedo Saenz tagged out Eckstein going for third.
Einar Diaz added a two-run single in the eighth off D.J. Houlton.
Izturis leads the NL with 17 multihit games. ... Cedeno, who entered the game 5-for-13 against Penny, was 0-for-3 and didn't get the ball out of the infield. ... Cardinals pitcher Jason Marquis, who's 6-for-19 with four RBIs, grounded out as a pinch hitter for Suppan in the seventh. ... Choi is batting .436 (17-for-39) with five homers and 14 RBIs in his last 11 games. ... Eckstein has seven hits the last two games and is batting .400 (22-for-55) during his streak.