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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Glaus' long ball a walk-off winner

Homer in ninth gives Cards thrilling victory over Mets
ST. LOUIS -- Just when it looked as if they were dead in the water, the Cardinals found a way.

Then again, that has been their mantra all year long -- never quit and keep a short-term memory.

By beating the Mets, 8-7, on Wednesday night, the Cardinals escaped from what could have been their second straight loss at home. And with the National League Central-leading Cubs coming to town over the weekend, keeping close to their rivals becomes that much more important.

Troy Glaus became the latest hero for the Cardinals, a list that has grown to include someone new nearly every day. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Glaus capped off another fantasy-driven ending when he hit his fifth career walk-off home run.

Even as an 11-year veteran, games like this never get old for Glaus.

"It's been awhile for me to be on the receiving end," Glaus said. "After that, it all feels good."

It was an odd night for the Cardinals. They sat through a 47-minute rain delay in the third inning -- the game lasted three hours and 21 minutes -- took an early lead only to see the bullpen blow it and knocked around one of the all-time great pitchers.

Whatever the case, they'll take it.

"A win is a win," as they say, but boy do the Cardinals like to keep it close. Now 18-14 in one-run games, 37 percent of the club's first-half contests have been decided by a lone run.

"I'm getting too old for this," manager Tony La Russa said.

Compounding the level of strangeness, St. Louis faced Pedro Martinez -- a pitcher known for dominating every single player that plays for the home team at Busch. Coming into Wednesday night, the Cardinals had batted a combined .182 with one home run against Martinez.

The one home run was by Glaus, hit when they both played in the American League. It took five batters into the game for him to add home run No. 2.

Glaus, who went 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs, took a 3-2 pitch and sent it 411 feet over the center-field wall for a three-run homer. Martinez, who once averaged sub-3.00 ERAs and 18-plus wins a year, still had Glaus paying homage.

"He knows how to pitch, he knows what he's doing," Glaus said, "He's changing speeds, working the ball in and out. The velocity wasn't as high as probably the last time that I faced him, but he's still Pedro."

Up, 4-0, after the first inning, all St. Louis needed was a solid outing from Joel Pineiro.

But when Pineiro left the game in the fifth, the score was tied at 4 after the Mets knocked 11 hits off the Cardinals' starter.

"It was just one of those nights where I missed 50 percent of my spots," Pineiro said.

Rick Ankiel bailed out Pineiro, who is now winless in his past nine starts, with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth.

But with a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning, the St. Louis bullpen faltered. Inheriting a runner, Mark Mulder gave up two singles and a sacrifice fly in his second appearance since returning from the disabled list.

"That was really a tough bloop to give up," La Russa said of the go-ahead run. "The seventh run was another one. ... But we gave up some tough runs on less than good contact."

With most of the fans having left due to the rain and needing a jolt to get the Cardinals back in the game, La Russa called on Chris Duncan to pinch-hit in the eighth.

Duncan, who appears to have turned around his struggles from the beginning of the year, hit a line-drive home run to right field to tie the game.

"That was the game-changing at-bat, more than anything else," Glaus said. "That was a lift. First pitch, boom."

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