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Cardinals Rally With a Three-Run Ninth

June 18, 2004|From Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals took advantage of the Oakland Athletics' short-handed bullpen for their first ninth-inning comeback of the season.

Pinch-hitter Reggie Sanders capped a three-run rally with a game-winning single that gave the Cardinals a 5-4 victory and a sweep of a three-game series involving division leaders Thursday night.

"The early part of the year, we weren't able to win those late games," Sanders said. "Everything is clicking right now.

"Coming back like that against a good team like that is a good sign."

The Cardinals have won 13 of 17 and cooled the Athletics, who began the series with a season-best eight-game winning streak in which they had averaged 10 runs. Oakland totaled only 10 runs in the series.

St. Louis had been 0-24 when trailing in the ninth.

"We have so many clutch players, so many guys that are ninth-inning guys, that it's the first time we've reversed it," Manager Tony La Russa said.

"We should do it as much as anybody because we've got a lot of pressure, clutch guys."

The Cardinals ruined a strong effort by Tim Hudson, who pitched 7 1/3 innings. Stand-in closer Jim Mecir (0-5), thrust into the role with Arthur Rhodes on a two-day personal leave, was victimized in the ninth.

"We're ahead by two runs and I couldn't even get an out," Mecir said. "It's just embarrassing. There's nothing else really to say about what kind of pitches or what."

With Oakland leading, 4-2, Edgar Renteria and Cody McKay opened the inning with singles, and Ray Lankford was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. A's second baseman Marco Scutaro booted Marlon Anderson's grounder to allow two runs to score.

Sanders lost the grip of his bat on a 2-and-1 pitch, and it sailed right past a ducking Mecir. On the next pitch, Sanders singled to center, making him four for seven with five runs batted in as a pinch-hitter.

"I'm going to go in there and kid him that we're not starting him anymore," La Russa said. "You can never go wrong having Reggie available late in the game."

Ray King (1-0) got the last out in the top of the ninth for St. Louis.

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