Cards storm back in eighth to beat Marlins
Pujols hits homer, Ankiel has three hits in series-clinching win
MIAMI -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is very particular about which left-handed hitters he allows to play when the opposition is pitching a lefty, fond of the advantage a right-handed hitter often gives in that situation.
Before Thursday's series finale against the Marlins, with a lefty set to pitch for the home team, La Russa filtered between Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan before deciding Ankiel would be his lone lefty hitter in the starting lineup.
"Looks like he chose right," said Ankiel, who managed two of his three hits off lefty Andrew Miller in leading the Cardinals' come-from-behind, 6-5 victory before 19,112 at Land Shark Stadium.
Ankiel, who hasn't always hit lefties well, scored after all three of his hits as the Cardinals took the series, two games to one.
Ankiel hit a one-out single in the first and scored on Nick Stavinoha's single. In the sixth, his single preceded Albert Pujols' laser home run down the left-field line that smacked off the facing of the upper deck.
Then in the pivotal eighth, he singled again to lead off the inning and eventually scored on Ryan Ludwick's single. So did Pujols, after center fielder Cody Ross botched the pickup.
Ludwick came around to third on the error and scored on pinch-hitter Rasmus' ground single to right.
"Sometimes when you don't see them much, they can be tough," Ankiel said of facing lefties. "But today I felt like I was following the ball real good."
So good, in fact, that Ankiel wound up 8-for-13 in the series.
In the afterglow of victory, the Cardinals didn't even seem to mind that much having to wait in their clubhouse an extra two hours because of weather problems in Dallas threatening their flight.
"We play nine," La Russa said of his team's comeback. "Sometimes you don't always have the decision you want to show for it. We had some great at-bats in that [pivotal] inning."
All came off well-regarded Marlins reliever Leo Nunez. La Russa mentioned Ankiel's hit, Pujols' walk and, best of all, Ludwick's game-tying blow.
"Nunez had a lot of ways to put him away, but he couldn't," La Russa said. "[Ludwick] fouled off some nasty pitches."
Said Ludwick: "I felt like I was on him the whole at-bat."
In an early afternoon game at Land Shark Stadium, the Cardinals scored first and "got close in a hurry," according to La Russa, on Pujols' homer. But the best was yet to come.
Cardinals right-hander Todd Wellemeyer was not near his best. He gave up two home runs to little-known veteran Ross Gload and departed after six innings, having surrendered five runs and 11 hits.
"I felt good and I put some balls in play," Wellemeyer said. "I kept it [the damage] to a minimum. ... My hat's off to [Gload]. Those weren't terrible pitches he hit."
Ryan Franklin, pitching for the first time in four days, got the save with 1 2/3 scoreless but dramatic innings. Franklin stranded two runners in the eighth when Ankiel made a diving catch on Ronny Paulino's two-out liner.
And in the ninth, the Marlins got a one-out double from Jorge Cantu before Franklin closed the door.
Franklin, who allowed three hits and struck out one, said he felt the layoff hampered his sharpness.
"It was a tough one," he said. "I think [the layoff] showed a little bit with my location, although they laid off some good pitches."
Yet the Cardinals' offense made up for any pitching concerns on this day. And now it's on to Cleveland for a three-game Interleague set.
"It's nice to see us battle back," Ludwick said. "This is a start to get some momentum back. Some good things are happening."
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.