06/18/2004 11:11 PM ET
Pujols gives Cards win in 10th
Griffey without homer for Reds as St. Louis wins again
By Alan Eskew / Special to MLB.com
|Albert Pujols and the Cardinals took a three-game lead in the NL Central with the victory. (James A. Finley/AP)
ST. LOUIS -- Ken Griffey Jr. did not get his 500th home run on Friday night, but Albert Pujols got his 18th, a game-winning shot to lead off the 10th in a 4-3 victory over the Reds.
With the Cards owning the best record, 40-27, in the National League, Pujols believes this team could be championship caliber.
"Not disrespecting the 2001 and 2002 teams, but this team is the best team I've been on in my four years with the Cardinals," Pujols said.
To refresh one's memory, the 2001 team went 93-69 and the 2002 Cards were 97-65 and both won the division.
"We want to keep pushing to the end," Pujols said. "Hopefully, in September we'll be like this. There are still a lot of games left. It's a long season. We've got to stay healthy. If we stay healthy, with our pitching, our bullpen, I think we can have a pretty good chance.
"When you've got a combination of good starters, the guys we have in the bullpen and a pretty good offense, you pull everything together, and that's what it takes to win a championship."
The Cardinals, who have won five straight, had to work some more ninth-inning magic to get it to Pujols in the 10th. After scoring three in the ninth Thursday to defeat the Athletics, St. Louis was down to its final out in the ninth with none on and Danny Graves looking to close out his 28th save.
Instead, Marlon Anderson delivered a pinch single, stopped at third on Ray Lankford's double, and scored on Tony Womack's infield single to tie it 3-3.
Pujols ended it with an opposite-field home run off Mike Matthews on a 2-0 pitch, sending the Cards to their 14th victory in 18 games and stretching their lead to three over the Reds and Cubs in the National League Central.
Reliever Julian Tavarez struck out the side in the 10th to pick up the victory.
Griffey failed to get his 500th milestone home run off Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter and left-handed reliever Ray King. Griffey worked the count full to lead off the second before looking at a tailing fastball for a called third strike. In the third, Griffey lined out to shortstop Edger Renteria on a 2-0 pitch. Griffey flied out to medium-center in the seventh.
"To be honest, I didn't even get involved with it," Carpenter said of Griffey's quest for 500. "I had my game plan on how I was going to pitch him. I did that and got him out. I wasn't going to pitch around him. If he hits a home run, he hits a home run. I was going to challenge him. I was going to make my pitches and I did."
"Chris threw a great game," said catcher Mike Matheny, who came off the disabled list on Friday. "The downer of this game was that he pitched good enough to win."
King retired Griffey on a weak ground ball to Scott Rolen on the first pitch of the ninth inning.
While Carpenter was deprived of getting his eighth victory, he was anything but down.
"I let it get away in the eight inning, but we came back and won it," Carpenter said. "As long as we win the game, I'm happy. You know if you keep our team close, our offense can come alive and win the game. Unfortunately, I gave up a couple of runs in the eighth that put them ahead."
Carpenter, who was looking for his eighth victory, held the Reds scoreless until the seventh when Sean Casey's double plated Barry Larkin, who led off the inning with an infield single.
The Reds seized the lead with a two-run eighth, which included a Javier Valentin leadoff double and a Jacob Cruz' pinch RBI double. Jason LaRue, who ran for Cruz, went to third on a Ryan Freel bunt single and scored the go-ahead run on a Barry Larkin ground out. Carpenter gave up three runs on six hits, walked one and struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings.
"I got pitches up on those back-to-back doubles and there was that crazy bunt," Carpenter said.
The Cards scored a run in the second without a hit. Rolen led off the inning with a walk and stole second base standing up. He advanced to third on Jim Edmonds' ground out to first and scored on Edgar Renteria's fly to Griffey in center.
With one out in the sixth, Womack singled and moved to third on Roger Cedeno's single to center. Albert Pujols' sacrifice fly brought home Womack, making it 2-0. After that, Rolen singled and Edmonds walked to load the bases, but the Cards failed to pad their lead as Renteria's fielder's choice grounder ended the inning.
Reds starter Cory Lidle, who had allowed 15 runs in nine innings in his previous two starts, limited the Cards' offense to two runs and six hits over seven innings. He walked two and struck out seven.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.