08/22/2003 6:38 PM ET
Cards stumble late against Phils
Pujols' hitting streak ends at 30 games
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals learned Friday night that pitching help was on the way. After the tough loss they suffered, they could definitely use the lift -- and maybe a hug to go with it.
Jim Thome and Pat Burrell hit two homers each as the Phillies came from behind to beat St. Louis, 9-4, on a hot, humid night at Busch Stadium. Thome's second shot, a two-run homer on a 3-2 pitch from Steve Kline in the eighth inning, was the telling blow. The Phillies are 4-0 against the Cardinals this year, and they have had an inning of at least four runs in each of those wins.
One pitch before the homer, Kline thought he had retired Thome on strikes. But home plate umpire Jim Joyce ruled the pitch a ball, and Thome went on to crush his 15th homer in 49 career at-bats against St. Louis.
"If the umpire calls a ball," Kline said, "it has to be a ball. There's no second-guessing the umpire. ... I just left the ball up. I've thrown to a lot of lefties, and I got burned by one tonight."
Making the night even tougher to take, Albert Pujols' 30-game hitting streak came to an end. The slugging left fielder made his first appearance in nearly a week, and went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. Pujols had been sidelined with a flu-like illness since last weekend. He didn't look right at the plate all night, grounding into a double play and not hitting a ball out of the infield. Pujols' streak was the longest in the Majors this season and was tied for the second longest in franchise history.
"Of course you're gonna feel anxious out there," Pujols said. "You're gonna feel lost. It's five, six days without seeing live pitching. That's not easy, no matter how many games you've played. If you've missed five days, it's gonna take a couple of days for you to get your approach back and your timing back. I was seeing the ball good, but I just got jumpy a little bit."
St. Louis fell into third place in the National League Central, but remained one game behind first-place Houston. The Cards missed a chance to move into a tie with the Astros after Houston lost at home to Cincinnati. The Cubs beat Arizona to move into second place, one-half game behind the Astros.
Earlier in the evening, the Cardinals announced they had acquired right-handed reliever Mike DeJean from the Brewers and lefty swingman Sterling Hitchcock from the Yankees.
Haren outpitched Philly's highly touted young righty Brett Myers, but was unable to gain payback for his loss to Myers last week. Haren permitted two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking one as his ERA dropped to 3.89. He has given up three earned runs or fewer in seven of his 10 Major League starts.
Mike Matheny continued his emergence from a recent slump with a pair of RBI singles, but it wasn't enough as Jeff Fassero, Kline and Esteban Yan each yielded homers in relief.
"The harder these guys try to make pitches," said manager Tony La Russa, "the more mistakes they make. There's a real fine line between relaxing and trying. Guys are hanging pitches and getting too much of the plate. They're out there trying to make quality pitches and just overthrowing or whatever."
The Cards stranded eight runners, including four in scoring position. They have scored more than four runs once in their last 11 home games.
An RBI double by Edgar Renteria put the Cards ahead, 1-0, in the second. After Thome's first homer, a solo blast, tied the game, Matheny's first single put St. Louis back on top.
Former Cardinal Placido Polanco tied it again with an RBI groundout in the sixth.
The Redbirds added a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth on Matheny's second single and Orlando Palmeiro's sac fly, but that was all for them while the Phils scored in each of the last four innings.
Burrell kicked off the comeback with a solo homer in the seventh off of Fassero, who retired only one of the three batters he faced. After a perfect inning by Jason Simontacchi, Kline came in to face the lefties Bob Abreu and Thome. Abreu beat out an infield single, and Thome followed with his majestic homer.
"He's hot," Kline said of Thome. "When you're hot, it's like Albert -- when he gets on a roll it doesn't matter who's throwing. He sees the ball and hits it. That's what happened. Thome's hot right now and he's comfortable at the plate."
A two-run homer by Burrell capped the four-run eighth, and the Phils tacked on two more in the ninth on singles by Polanco and Abreu.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.