ST. LOUIS — Short notice brought out Brad Thompson’s best.
The first-year starter worked seven strong innings a day ahead of schedule and two days after a two-inning relief stint, leading the pitching-starved St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
“I haven’t really figured out the whole starting thing yet, in the first place,” Thompson said. “So it wasn’t that bad. I still had two days full rest.”
Thompson started in place of Kip Wells, who was told three hours before the game that he was being sent to the bullpen. Wells leads the major leagues in losses and lasted only 11/3 innings in his last start at Kansas City, giving up six runs, three hits and four walks.
Thompson and relievers Randy Flores and Ryan Franklin worked fast, with the game time of 2 hours and 10 minutes the team’s shortest of the season.
“He was really effective,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He had great movement and pitched with terrific pace as far as keeping the team in the game.
“I was kidding him we’ll start him on Saturday.”
Chris Duncan homered for the third time in five games, and Albert Pujols and Scott Spiezio had an RBI apiece for the Cardinals, who won for only the fifth time in 14 interleague games.
Thompson (5-2) dominated the Royals a week after surrendering eight runs on 10 hits in 41/3 innings in Kansas City. He allowed a run on seven hits, two each by Emil Brown and Alex Gordon, while striking out three and walking none.
Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer had been listed to pitch on Wednesday and Thursday, but were moved up a day. Wells, who signed a $4 million, one-year contract as a free agent during the offseason, is set to start on Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Duncan is 3-for-4 with three homers and seven RBIs against Scott Elarton, and his 13th homer was a two-run shot to straightaway center in the second for the game’s first runs. Elarton was removed in the third just before Duncan could face him again, and Duncan added an RBI single off Neal Musser to cap a three-run rally that made it 5-0.
“I know I’ve had success against him, and it just seemed like I see the ball pretty good off him,” Duncan said. “I was confident going into the game.”
CARDS SIGN OHKA: The Cardinals signed right-hander Tomo Ohka to a minor league contract. Ohka was 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA in 10 starts with the Toronto Blue Jays before being released on Monday and is scheduled to start on Wednesday for Triple-A Memphis.
“I think it’s a smart move to get him into our organization and see what he’s got,” La Russa said. “But there’s no guarantees, it depends on how he pitches.”
SWEENEY ON DISABLED LIST: Kansas City Royals designated hitter Mike Sweeney, hampered by a right knee injury, on Tuesday was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
The move was backdated one day for Sweeney, who is batting .245 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 57 games. The Royals recalled Billy Butler, the team’s first-round pick in 2004, from Triple-A Omaha. Butler, 21, is an outfielder-first baseman and is making his second appearance with the Royals this season, after hitting .243 with two doubles and four RBIs the first two weeks of May.