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Cardinals win thriller in ninth09/17/2004 10:43 PM ET
By Brian Doolittle / Special to MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- It definitely was not easy, but the Cardinals lowered their magic number to three with a thrilling 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Albert Pujols led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk before Jim Edmonds' line-drive triple off of Scott Service (1-1) went to the wall in right-center field, scoring Pujols easily to win the game.
After losing six of nine games and dropping three consecutive series for the first time in 2004, St. Louis is hoping to get back on track this weekend against the worst team in baseball.
"We knew they were going to come in here and play hard. They made it a real tough game, you've got to give them credit," La Russa said. "They made [Cardinals starter] Woody [Williams] work. That is why this game will drive you nuts, because Woody pitched out of the seventh. This game will break your heart."
The Cardinals used power from the lower part of their order and Edmonds' heroics to win yet another Williams start. St. Louis has now won 15 of Williams' past 17 starts.
Though it was a cool, sub-80 degrees night at Busch Stadium, it took little time for the action to get heated. After Mike Matheny launched a long home run over the left-field bullpen to begin the bottom of the third, Diamondbacks starter Brandon Webb drilled Williams on his next pitch and was ejected immediately by home plate umpire Jerry Layne. There was no warning issued. Just minutes later, Arizona manager Al Pedrique was tossed by Layne for arguing over Webb's ejection.
"If a sinker ball pitcher throws a ball around the neck, it's pretty suspicious," La Russa said.
Said a compassionate Williams: "It was just a freak thing. I feel bad for the other pitcher. He's not trying to hit me. I guess the umpire thought it looked bad, but it is just a shame. You work hard to make starts."
Later in the inning, Williams tried to score after a throwing error by second baseman Alex Cintron on a Larry Walker grounder, but first baseman Shea Hillenbrand quickly recovered the ball and threw Williams out at home. The inning ended when pitcher Lance Cormier nabbed a hard grounder from Edmonds by reaching behind his back and throwing him out.
The ejection was just the latest in a string of bad luck for Webb, who has received minimal run support all season. Before Friday, Webb had had allowed two earned runs or less in 15 of his past 20 starts. However, Webb went 4-10 in those starts despite a 3.20 ERA in that span.
The Cardinals stretched their lead to 2-0 in the fourth. Singles by Roger Cedeno and John Mabry and a walk to Edgar Renteria loaded the bases with no outs, but Cormier allowed only one run in the inning. After Matheny struck out, Williams hit a hard liner to center to score Cedeno via a sacrifice fly. Womack popped to shortstop to end the threat.
Williams did not allow a hit until the top of the fifth, when rookie left fielder Josh Kroeger hit a liner off of the right-field wall following a walk to catcher Chris Snyder. The ball was hit so hard that it rebounded right to Walker, who held Kroeger to a one-out single. Keeping Kroeger at first proved to be pivotal as Williams escaped the jam on a 5-4-3 double play by rookie shortstop Jerry Gil.
The Cardinals had another scoring opportunity in the fifth, but a nice play by Gil on a Renteria grounder with two runners on ended the inning.
Mabry hit his 11th home run, a shot into the left-field bullpen, in the sixth to put St. Louis up, 3-1.
Williams appeared to tire in the seventh after he reached the 90-pitch mark. Back-to-back doubles by Snyder and Kroeger led off the inning. Kroeger's double sailed over Walker's head, but Walker reacted as if he had a play, fooling Snyder and keeping him at third.
Snyder was promptly thrown out at home on a grounder to Womack. However, Williams balked Kroeger home when he attempted to stop his release toward home on a pitch to pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga. Williams still got out of the seventh with a 3-2 lead.
"We have different signs depending if someone is on second or not and I just got confused and had the wrong grip," Williams said.
In seven innings, Williams threw 99 pitches, allowed six hits, three walks and struck out five. Both runs allowed were earned. He was denied a victory when Jason Isringhausen could not close out the game in the ninth inning.
"No one feels worse about me not winning than him, believe me," said Williams about Isringhausen. "It's just a shame. I know he is going to be beating himself up over it tonight. But tomorrow is another day and he'll be out there.
"With the magnitude of his job, he has got to be perfect every time and it's not going to happen."
Kiko Calero took over in the eighth and got two outs before Ray King came in and allowed a double to Chad Tracy. Isringhausen (4-2) entered after King faced one batter and got Snyder to ground out to end the inning.
In the ninth, Isringhausen failed to convert his 43rd save when Alan Zinter hit a pinch-hit double to score pinch-runner Andy Green, who was running for Quinton McCracken after a one-out walk. Isringhausen escaped further damage.
"I don't know if there was a lack of concentration. I just kind of fell apart on McCracken and came back and Zinter got a hanger and a hit. I was supposed to bounce a curveball, and left it right over the plate," Isringhausen said.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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