Nursing a one-run lead and with runners on second and third and
one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Cincinnati Reds manager
Dave Miley had his closer walk Larry Walker intentionally to load
the bases. The move worked out perfectly when the St. Louis
Cardinals' most dangerous hitter grounded into a double play,
ending the Reds' 6-5 victory on Wednesday."If you play he percentages, that's the thing to do," Graves
said after getting his second save. "Righty against righty. Bases
loaded, force at any base. So, that's what we did. Of course, if it
doesn't work, everybody's going to second-guess Miley."Graves, the fourth Reds pitcher, entered the inning with a 6-4
lead and gave up an RBI ground-rule double to David Eckstein that
would also have driven in the tying run had the ball not bounced
over the left-field wall."Thank God the warning track was real hard today or it wouldn't
have bounced over," Graves said. "That's probably the only rule
in all of baseball that's good for the pitchers."Pujols grounded the first pitch from Graves sharply to third
baseman Joe Randa, who stepped on third and threw to first for the
final out."We got a tough break, it's part of the game," Pujols said.
"I don't get frustrated about it because I know it's early."Pujols wasn't surprised that the Reds chose to pitch to him.
Walker hit a grand slam off Graves the last time he faced him."That was the play," manager Tony La Russa said. "It takes a
lot of guts to make it."Mark Mulder flopped again in his second outing for the
Cardinals, with Austin Kearns hitting a three-run homer and Randa
getting three hits for the Reds.Matt Belisle (1-1), starting because Ramon Ortiz was scratched
before the game because of a groin injury, got his second career
win and first since 2003. He pitched five strong innings in his
first major league start.Kearns hit his first homer of the year to help the Reds win for
the first time in five games on the road this season. They averaged
two runs in the first four road losses.Jim Edmonds homered for the second straight day, and Reggie
Sanders had a three-run homer for the NL champion Cardinals, who
were 2-3 on their first homestand and are 3-4 overall. Last year,
St. Louis started slowly but led the major leagues with 105
victories."We're fine, it's just one of those things," Sanders said.
"We're not stressing at all."Mulder, who won 17 games for the Oakland Athletics last year but
was 0-4 with a 7.27 ERA in his last seven starts, has an 8.18 ERA
in two starts for St. Louis. He had won eight straight decisions in
day games dating to Aug. 3, 2003.The Reds launched a pair of two-out, none-on rallies against the
left-hander, bunching four straight hits in the third for two runs
and five more in a four-run fifth that put them ahead 6-1."At certain times with two outs I made some bad pitches over
the middle of the plate," Mulder said. "It's not something I'm
thinking about when I'm out there but it happened both times today.
You've got to execute a little better and make better pitches."After Edmonds' homer put St. Louis ahead in the second,
Cincinnati took a 2-1 lead in the third on RBI singles by D'Angelo
Jimenez and Randa.Randa's run-scoring single off Mulder's glove preceded Kearns'
homer in the fifth. Randa is among the league leaders with a .448
average and 10 RBI.Belisle allowed one run and four hits, struck out six and walked
one. His only other major league victory came in a one-inning
relief appearance in September 2003.Sanders hit his fourth homer of the season off David Weathers in
the sixth following walks to Walker and Edmonds.
John Mabry, who has a hamstring injury, trotted to first on
what would have been an easy pinch-double for St. Louis in the
fifth. ... Edmonds slipped and stumbled in shallow CF on a possible
play at the plate on Jimenez' RBI single in the first, and the ball
bounced several times before it was cut off. ... The Reds were
5-for-10 with runners in scoring position after going 4-for-35
combined in their first four road games. ... Cardinals backup 2B
Abraham Nunez bobbled a flip relay from SS David Eckstein several
times and then got upended by Ryan Freel in the ninth. Nunez was
down for several minutes but left the field without assistance. He
is to undergo a bone scan of his ribs on Thursday.