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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bittersweet victory for Cardinals

Ludwick, Boggs star, but Pujols likely headed to DL after injury

CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals got production from their slumping big hitters, solid pitching by a rookie making his first Major League start and even a convincing win, but still managed to do themselves harm.

Go figure.

The Cardinals' Nos. 2-4 hitters combined for three home runs, six hits and seven RBIs, and rookie Mitchell Boggs was solid in his first start, but Albert Pujols' strained left calf put a severe damper on St. Louis' 7-2 win over the Reds on Tuesday night.

Pujols, who will be examined by team doctors on Wednesday in St. Louis, is likely headed for the disabled list after aggravating an injury he sustained last Tuesday in Washington. After hitting a grounder to first in the seventh inning, Pujols took one step and fell to the ground in pain.

He had to be helped off the field by teammates.

"That one thing kind over overrides all the good things, long term," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Pujols' injury. "But we've just got to deal with it. Normally, you try to enjoy the moment [after a win], but it's pretty tough to enjoy when now there's no way he's not going on the disabled list."

If that indeed happens, Pujols will be the second Cardinal to be placed on the DL this week. Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday after spraining his right middle finger. He is one of 10 Cardinals -- including nine pitchers -- on the disabled list right now.

"It's a really sick-stomach feeling," right fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "[Wainwright], and now him. That's two of our heavy-artillery guns right there."

Ludwick, Pujols and Rick Ankiel did the damage early on for the Cardinals and gave Boggs plenty of room to work with in his first Major League start. Ludwick hit an RBI double, Pujols hit a monster home run to center and Ankiel followed with a line-drive homer to right to give St. Louis an early 4-0 lead in the third inning.

Another RBI double from Ludwick, who finished 4-for-5, in the fourth made it 5-0.

"I thought I gave us a chance to win," Boggs said. "We were up 4-0 and 5-0, and my job was to just get outs and go as deep in the game as possible. I was able to get through five, and the [bullpen] came in and slammed the door. It was a good starting point for me."

Called up from Triple-A Memphis on Friday, Boggs (1-0) pitched five innings and gave up just two runs on four hits. Boggs also kept a childhood favorite, Ken Griffey Jr., from doing any damage. Griffey, who hit his 600th career home run Monday, went 0-for-2 with a walk against Boggs.

"You've got to give Boggs a lot of credit," La Russa said. "We got the runs, but [the Reds] have such a dangerous lineup. He got the outs he needed to get, and he earned it. He's been one of the most consistent starters in this organization the last couple years. He had a lot of good things working for him heading into this game, and he added to it."

Boggs, who debuted with a two-inning relief performance at Houston on Friday, anchored the rotation at Memphis before his callup, going 5-1 with a 3.28 ERA.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't different [than the Minor Leagues]," Boggs said. "There are a lot more people here and the guys are really talented. But Tony told me the day I got here not to do anything extra, that I'm good enough to be here and if I weren't, I wouldn't be here. He told me to pitch to my strengths, and I did that tonight."

Boggs' only mistake came in the fourth inning, when he gave up a two-run homer to Reds rookie Joey Votto. Votto sent the fastball up in the zone deep into center and drove in Adam Dunn, who Boggs had walked in the previous at-bat.

But the Cardinals responded when Ludwick, who entered the game 5-for-25 (.200) on this road trip, hit a home run deep into left-center in the seventh to make it 6-2. He drove in Brendan Ryan with an RBI bloop single in the ninth.

Ludwick, Pujols and Ankiel finished a combined 6-for-13 at the plate.

"[Ludwick] can beat you every at-bat," La Russa said. "Even if he's not quite right, he's got a chance to do something good. Today he had some huge hits."

And with Pujols gone, the Cardinals are going to need a lot more.

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