05/17/08 8:30 PM ET
Ludwick's two taters lift Cards
Extra-innings win marks La Russa's 2,400th career victory
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
In the 10th inning of a game that made pitchers on both teams cringe, Ludwick sent a ball high in the air to left-center, and it carried just over the wall to give the Cardinals a 9-8 victory over the Rays.
Ludwick was mobbed by his teammates at home plate and received a big hug from manager Tony La Russa, who picked up career win No. 2,400 on an afternoon that must have seemed about as exhausting as any of the previous 2,399 victories.
The Cardinals were rolling right along with an 8-4 lead in the seventh when Carlos Pena hit a wind-aided three-run homer off Randy Flores. That put more stress on the St. Louis bullpen, but Ludwick made sure it didn't turn into a demoralizing day.
"The ball was carrying today, no doubt," Ludwick said. "My ball, Pena's ball, ... maybe they don't go [on a normal day]. This ballpark has its own character."
Sometimes, the hitters can crush a ball and it stalls in the wind. Other times, the hitters get a friendly ride that evens things out.
"I definitely think it was wind-blown, but that's the game," Ludwick said. "Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't. That's why we play 162 games."
Ludwick's walk-off homer was his second long ball of the day, marking the fourth multi-homer game of his career.
Ludwick said those impromptu celebrations at the plate never get old. This one was particularly gratifying, considering that the Cardinals had dropped eight of 10 coming in and were in danger of dropping another game in which they had built a four-run cushion.
"Our last 10 games haven't gone the way we've wanted them to, but a big hit like that is always good for a team trying to turn things around," Ludwick said.
Ludwick wasn't the only hero on a day when the Cardinals found a way to grind out a win, despite surrendering 18 hits.
Aaron Miles got a spot start at second base and contributed four hits. Catcher Yadier Molina threw out three runners attempting to steal and picked off another. Ryan Franklin worked two scoreless innings to pick up the win and lower his ERA to 1.64.
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright labored through 5 2/3 innings, allowing 12 hits and four runs. La Russa said pitching coach Dave Duncan spotted an adjustment that Wainwright needs to make before his next start.
"He wasn't real sharp, but he kept competing," La Russa said.
Wainwright had to battle through a 28-pitch first inning, and it didn't get a lot easier thereafter.
"There were a lot of balls over the middle today," Wainwright said. "I was really battling myself mechanically. I was constantly talking to myself on the mound, telling myself to keep the team in it. This was one of those games that was a grind and you just try to get through it."
With his four hits, Miles is now hitting .310 in his 18 starts. He is hitting .458 in Interleague Play, dating back to 2007. Miles thinks maybe the American League teams aren't paying a lot of attention to him with their scouting reports.
"They don't know me," Miles said. "Maybe I'm not on their radar."
Franklin came on after the Rays had generated momentum by roaring back to tie the score with three in the seventh and one in the eighth. Franklin walked a man in both the ninth and 10th, but didn't allow a hit.
"Ryan has done a great job for us," La Russa said.
Besides the two homers by Ludwick -- his ninth and 10th of the season -- the Cardinals got a homer from Albert Pujols. That blow by Pujols came on a 3-0 pitch in the sixth and put the Cards up, 8-4.
But it turned out to be a day when the Cardinals were hanging on by their fingernails as Tampa Bay sprayed hits all around the ballpark.
In the end, though, the Rays were gone with the wind and La Russa had a milestone win to savor.
The Cardinals' manager can only hope win No. 2,401 comes a little bit easier.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.