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FLA@STL: Descalso belts a clutch homer in the seventh

ST. LOUIS -- Rookie infielder Daniel Descalso's first Major League home run couldn't have come at a better time for the Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Descalso's three-run shot into the right-field stands with two outs in the seventh inning lifted the Cardinals to a 7-5 victory over the Marlins on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

"It felt great, not just to get the home run but it was a big spot -- it put us in the lead late in the game," Descalso said. "I was just happy to put us over the top there."

Descalso, who hit 27 home runs in 1,596 at-bats in the Minor Leagues, helped the Cardinals (17-13) snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 7-7 at home this season.

"He is just a real gamer," manager Tony La Russa said of Descalso, who started at second base and later moved over to third. "When you play with your best nine innings, you make a lot of good things happen. ... That three-run homer was huge for us."

The clutch hit also helped righty reliever Fernando Salas (1-0), who tossed a scoreless sixth and then allowed a run in the seventh, earn the first Major League victory of his career.

After the Cardinals took the lead in the seventh, Jason Motte pitched a perfect eighth inning and rookie Eduardo Sanchez earned his second save in as many opportunities with a scoreless ninth.

"We had to get six outs," La Russa said. "So I was really proud of Motte and Sanchez."

Matt Holliday opened the scoring with a two-out, two-run home run, his fourth of the season, to right field in the bottom of the first inning to give the Cardinals an early 2-0 advantage.

St. Louis loaded the bases with one out in the second inning, got one run across when Allen Craig walked, but then the rally stalled as Albert Pujols grounded into a fielder's choice and Holliday hit a foul popup to first base.

The Marlins (18-10) scored twice in the third inning without the benefit of a hit. John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio led off the inning with back-to-back walks, with Buck later scoring on fielder's-choice groundout by center fielder Chris Coglan and Bonifacio coming home on a wild pitch to make it 3-2.

Florida opened the fourth inning with four consecutive hits -- singles by Gaby Sanchez and Mike Stanton were followed by RBI singles from Greg Dobbs and Buck -- to take a 4-3 lead.

The Cardinals tied the score at 4 in the fifth on an RBI single by Colby Rasmus and loaded the bases with one out. But righty Edward Mujica entered in relief of starter Anibal Sanchez and induced pinch-hitter Jon Jay into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.

The Marlins took the lead in the seventh. Hanley Ramirez singled to center, stole second and took third on a wild pitch before Gaby Sanchez plated him with an RBI single to left field -- the fourth hit of the night for Sanchez and sixth in the first two games of the series.

Florida called on right-handed reliever Clay Hensley to get the third out of the seventh inning, with two runners on base, but Descalso deposited the second pitch he saw into the right field stands.

"I hung a pitch, and I guess he did what you're supposed to do when you hang a changeup," Hensley said.

The Descalso blast gave the Cardinals a 7-5 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"I was looking for something out over the plate, a fastball, and he hung a changeup over the middle of the plate," he said. "I wasn't sitting on a changeup, but in the back of my mind I knew that's a pitch he likes to go to, so I was able to catch it out front and put a good swing on it."

The Cardinals entered Tuesday's game with a 1-7 record when trailing after six innings. Motte and Eduardo Sanchez shut the door.

Sanchez ran into some trouble in the ninth after hitting the leadoff batter, Coghlan, and then issuing a one-out walk to Ramirez. But the rookie right-hander, who was making just his eighth appearance in the Majors, got Sanchez to fly out to center and then struck out Stanton on a 2-2 changeup.

"He made quality pitches," La Russa said. "That was a tough save." Comments