Series: Game 3 of 3

St. Louis won 3-0

Game 1: Tuesday, June 15
St. Louis8
Game 2: Wednesday, June 16
St. Louis6
Game 3: Thursday, June 17
St. Louis5

Athletics 4

(37-27, 14-17 away)

Cardinals 5

(39-27, 16-15 home)

    8:10 PM ET, June 17, 2004

    Busch Stadium I, St. Louis, Missouri 

    123456789 R H E
    OAK 100030000 4 9 1
    STL 000001103 5 11 2

    W: R. King (1-0)

    L: J. Mecir (0-5)

    A's bullpen fails Hudson

    ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals took advantage of the Oakland Athletics' short-handed bullpen for their first ninth-inning comeback of the season.

    Pinch-hitter Reggie Sanders capped a three-run rally with a game-winning single that gave the Cardinals a 5-4 victory and a sweep of a three-game series between division leaders Thursday night.

    "The early part of the year, we weren't able to win those late games," Sanders said. "Everything is clicking right now.

    "Coming back like that against a good team like that is a good sign."

    The Cardinals have won 13 of 17 and cooled the Athletics, who entered the series with a season-best, eight-game winning streak in which they averaged 10 runs. Oakland totaled just 10 runs in the series.

    St. Louis had been 0-24 when trailing in the ninth.

    "We have so many clutch players, so many guys that are ninth-inning guys, that it's the first time we've reversed it," manager Tony La Russa said. "We should do it as much as anybody because we've got a lot of pressure, clutch guys."

    The Cardinals ruined a strong effort by Tim Hudson, who threw 7 1-3 strong innings. Stand-in closer Jim Mecir (0-5), thrust into the role with Arthur Rhodes on a two-day personal leave, was victimized in the ninth.

    "We're ahead by two runs and I couldn't even get an out," Mecir said. "It's just embarrassing. There's nothing else really to say about what kind of pitches or what."

    With Oakland leading 4-2, Edgar Renteria and Cody McKay opened the inning with singles, and Ray Lankford was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. A's second baseman Marco Scutaro booted Marlon Anderson's grounder to allow two runs to score.

    Sanders lost the grip of his bat on a 2-1 pitch, and it sailed right past a ducking Mecir. On the next pitch, he singled to center, making Sanders 4-for-7 with five RBI as a pinch-hitter.

    "I'm going to go in there and kid him that we're not starting him anymore," La Russa said. "You can never go wrong having Reggie available late in the game."

    Ray King (1-0) got the last out in the top of the ninth for St. Louis.

    Jim Edmonds had an RBI double, and Tony Womack added a sacrifice fly for the Cardinals, who completed a three-game sweep for only the third time in eight chances. St. Louis overcame a miserable game by second baseman Marlon Anderson, playing on a day off for Womack, who had two errors and a pair of mental miscues.

    Hudson allowed two runs on eight hits, and has given up only three runs in 23 1-3 innings his last three starts. He struck out five and walked three.

    "Obviously those guys want to get the job done, but for some reason it's been a struggle," Hudson said. "It's hard to say why it happens but it has been and it's just something we've got to somehow get past."

    The A's bullpen was also missing left-hander Chris Hammond, who was unavailable due to a shoulder problem.

    Hudson has worked seven or more innings in 12 of 14 appearances this year. He pitched on five days' rest for the eighth time, and is 5-0 in those games with a 1.72 ERA.

    Anderson had a tough inning in the Athletics' three-run fifth against Suppan that produced a 4-0 lead. Anderson got in the way of shortstop Renteria and failed to run down Dye's pop fly in shallow center that dropped for an RBI single, and he threw wildly on a double-play relay that allowed a second run to score.

    In the first, Anderson failed to cover the bag on what would have been a forceout grounder to short that turned into an infield hit for Scott Hatteberg.

    And his wild throw in the fourth on a grounder by Adam Melhuse deflected off the glove of first baseman Albert Pujols. The ball struck Suppan's cap and then hit him above the left eye.

    Thereafter, the home crowd gave a facetious cheer whenever Anderson made a routine play.

    Suppan lasted five innings and gave up four runs -- three earned -- on eight hits. He's 5-0 with a 2.09 ERA on the road and 1-5 with a 5.13 ERA at home.

    Mark McLemore had an RBI double earlier in the fifth for the A's. Dye's sacrifice fly in the first gave the A's the early lead.

    Game notes

    Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen made an outstanding defensive play in the fourth, ranging far to his left to snare Scutaro's smash and then throwing to second from the seat of his pants for a force out. ... Hatteberg was 2-for-4 and has reached base in 26 straight games, batting .366 during that stretch (34-for-93). He also leads the majors with 19 RBI this month. ... Hudson hasn't allowed a homer in seven straight starts, a streak of 57 1-3 innings.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press