SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Rick Ankiel's return to the major leagues after
more than three years away couldn't have gone much better.
The left-hander, whose once-promising career was derailed by
wild pitches and elbow surgery, allowed one hit in a scoreless
inning of relief in the St. Louis Cardinals' 4-2 win over the San
Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
Ankiel received a rousing reception in the dugout after the
sixth inning, getting high-fives and slaps on the back from his
"It's just such a relief to get out there and finally get back
in the mix again," Ankiel said. "The welcome was great, and I'm
happy to be back."
Pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno had a go-ahead, two-run double in the
sixth and the Cardinals won for the 10th time in 11 games. Jeff
Suppan (15-6) won his sixth straight start and improved to 9-0 on
Manager Tony La Russa called Ankiel's appearance "a very
"We've been waiting to see him, we saw him, he thrilled us all
and he was very good," La Russa said. "He was at the top of the
highlight list for us, and there were a lot of them."
Ankiel started the bottom of the sixth by allowing a single to
Xavier Nady, then retired the side. It was Ankiel's first big
league appearance since May 10, 2001.
Ankiel is best known for throwing nine wild pitches and walking
11 in four innings in the 2000 playoffs. He was demoted to the
minors in May 2001, and missed the entire 2002 season with a
sprained elbow. He had reconstructive elbow surgery last year.
"No matter how many games you throw in the minors, there's
nothing like being back out on the main stage," Ankiel said. "It
just feels good."
He threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes.
"I think my curveball could have been a little sharper, but I
was there," Ankiel said. "That's the main thing, and it's only
going to get better from here."
Suppan, who met Ankiel for the first time during spring
training, was happy for his teammate.
"He's been working hard for a long time and everybody was very
excited when he came out," Suppan said. "He even had some of the
fans cheering for him."
The Padres, trying for their first postseason appearance since
1998, stumbled again, losing for the sixth time in eight games.
They remained 2˝ games behind Chicago in the NL wild-card race. The
Cardinals, baseball's best team, swept the Padres last week at St.
Louis, outscoring them 20-7.
"We're playing a heck of a team over there," Padres slugger
Phil Nevin said. "After playing them five times, there's no
question, in my mind, who the best team around is."
The Cardinals returned to form a night after having their
nine-game winning streak snapped.
Peavy said he left a cut fastball in too good of a location for
"Against good ballclubs, you have to play flawless baseball,"
Peavy said. "That's something we didn't do as a team."
The Padres took a 2-1 lead with two outs in the fourth when
Suppan walked Sean Burroughs on four straight pitches with the
St. Louis tied it with an unearned run in the fifth. Tony Womack
reached on a leadoff single, took second on Peavy's errant pickoff
throw and scored on Albert Pujols' bloop double just inside the
Phil Nevin homered leading off the second for the Padres, his
22nd. St. Louis tied it on Edgar Renteria's RBI single in the
Peavy struck out eight in 5 1-3 innings. He allowed four runs --
three earned -- and eight hits and walked three.
The Cardinals won the season series against the Padres for
the sixth straight season. ... Padres 2B Mark Loretta, who bruised
a knuckle on his right ring finger Saturday night, said he could
return either Wednesday against the Cardinals or Thursday at
Colorado. He swung a bat and played catch Tuesday, saying it was
difficult to make throws.