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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Missed double play costs Cards

April 23, 2008--Cardinals pitcher Todd Wellemeyer throws in the first inning.
PITTSBURGH — Regardless of the quality of pitches Anthony Reyes threw to the plate late in Wednesday's game, his inning imploded when he couldn't throw a strike to second base.

In the game to preserve and protect a tie score, Reyes got the groundball that was his ticket out of trouble in the eighth inning. All he had to do was turn, rifle a throw to Aaron Miles and watch a routine double play erase Pittsburgh's potential go-ahead run.

All he did was misfire.
Pirates 7, Cards 4

Reyes whipped his throw too far ahead of Miles and straight to second baseman Adam Kennedy. Though Kennedy improvised in time to get Xavier Nady at first base, the botched double play allowed Ryan Doumit to reach second. Doumit scored the go-ahead run on Jose Bautista's loop single to right field as Pittsburgh rallied to spin a 7-4 victory out of an early 0-4 deficit at PNC Park.

"We missed," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "That's a 1-6-3 double play. Two outs. Nobody on. We paid for it."

The loss was the Cardinals' fourth in five games, a span that includes their first — and now their second — two-game losing streaks of the season. Seven of the Cardinals' nine losses this season have come with three or fewer runs. Wednesday's flirted with being the Cardinals' third consecutive game decided by one run before Doug Mientkiewicz's pinch-hit, two-run single capped the eighth.

Close has to be comfortable for the Cardinals as only five of their 22 games so far this season have been decided by five or more runs. When the taut nature of their games was mentioned to closer Jason Isringhausen before Wednesday's game, he nodded.

"It's good that way," he said.

The Pirates halted a six-game losing streak with a victory Tuesday but seemed set on starting another loss in the first inning. The Cardinals fleeced starter Ian Snell for a four-run lead. Troy Glaus doubled in two runs. With the fourth hit of the inning, Kennedy singled in two more. But an unusual thing happened on the way to another pounding at PNC.

The Cardinals stopped pounding.

Snell's steady improvement bought the Pirates time to chip away at Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer. The righthander, still unbeaten this season, no-hit Pittsburgh through three innings. He allowed two in the fourth inning, including a sacrifice fly to Nady that made him the third National Leaguer to reach 20 RBIs this season.

In the fifth, former batting champ Freddy Sanchez roped a single. Jason Bay skied Wellemeyer's next pitch to left field. It plopped down one row deep in the bleachers for a two-run shot that tied the score. Bay's fourth home run of the season was the sixth allowed by Wellemeyer in 29 2/3 innings. He allowed seven in 63 2/3 innings as a Cardinal last season, and none in his final 20 2/3 innings of the year.

"It will even itself out," Wellemeyer said. "Obviously, I'm generating a little bit of their power. It will even itself out eventually, I'm sure."

As tight as many recent games have been for the Cardinals, the loss hinged on two throws — one to Albert Pujols and the one that was supposed to be to Miles.

In the sixth inning, the Cardinals put two runners on base and up came the bat that so often sinks the Pirates. Pujols entered the game with a .753 slugging percentage at PNC and was nine for 16 with four home runs against Snell. Pujols reached base — with two singles and a hit by pitch — in his first three plate appearances against Snell on Wednesday.

But not his fourth.

Instead of yielding to Pujols' power with a walk in the sixth, Snell battled back from a 2-0 count to get it full. He shook off Doumit's call for a fastball and went with a slider. Pujols popped up to Adam LaRoche, a few feet in front of the Cardinals' dugout.

"To tell the truth, I am so happy that I held him to just (two hits)," said Snell, who left like Wellemeyer after pitching six innings. "Dude usually kills me."

Relievers traded scoreless innings until the eighth, when Reyes (1-1) entered to start the inning. Doumit singled up the middle. Nady followed with a scalding grounder back to the mound. The righthander spun to his left and rifled a throw to the first infielder he saw. The throw had more hope than accuracy. Kennedy caught it several feet behind the base. Miles, the correct target, never had a chance.

The throw made sure the Cardinals didn't either.

With Doumit at second, LaRoche popped up for the second out of the inning, what could have been the final out. Reyes then bored an inside pitch to Bautista that the third baseman flared to right field to bring in the winning run.

"I turned around a little too quick and thought somebody would be there," Reyes said. "I was just hoping that it would get to him."

Said Miles: "The game is going so quick. He saw Kennedy, and (the throw) was just out of my reach. … Now you've got the winning run on second base instead of a double play."

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