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Reds rally behind Aurilia, Valentin to beat Cardinals

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping their
latest injury is gone by the time the playoffs arrive.

Rich Aurilia drove in three runs with a homer and a single
Tuesday night, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-5 victory over
the NL Central champions in a game that had little meaning for
either team.

Until Mark Grudzielanek hit the ground, that is.

The Cardinals have won 95 games even though the everyday lineup
has been battered by injuries. They suffered another on Tuesday
when their second baseman twisted his right ankle in a collision
with Reds first baseman Javier Valentin while running out a
grounder.

A few hours later, it appeared the Cardinals would get lucky
this time.

"It stung a little bit, but I'm fine now, really,"
Grudzielanek said. "I don't see it swelling."

Grudzielanek has missed games in the last month because of a
sore back and knee. He smacked into Valentin -- who was trying to
field an errant throw -- and spun around before landing awkwardly.
He sat on the field with a grimace for several minutes, then walked
off slowly.

With two weeks left before the playoffs, manager Tony La Russa
wants to keep his regulars sharp by keeping them in the lineup most
of the time. The Cardinals reached the World Series last year but
were swept by Boston.

La Russa was relieved that Grudzielanek's injury didn't appear
to be serious, leaving him listed as day-to-day.

"He's feeling better," La Russa said. "It was just a freak
thing. You hope it's not serious."

The Reds won for only the fourth time in 11 games this season
against the Cardinals, who clinched the division title over the
weekend. The Reds remained one loss away from guaranteeing their
fifth straight season without a winning record -- their deepest rut
since they went from 1945-55 without a winning record.

The victory put them in line to break another bad streak -- four
straight losing seasons at home, their longest such stretch since
1929-34. One more victory during the homestand will end that one.

"There are certain things we want to play for," Aurilia said.
"We want to finish above .500 at home. The win tonight helped us
out a lot."

Jeff Suppan failed in his bid for his 16th win. The right-hander
gave up Aurilia's two-run homer in the first and his RBI single in
the fifth, which tied it at 5. Adam Dunn also had a two-run double
that let the Reds match their franchise record of 312 two-base hits
in a season.

"The three guys I walked all scored," said Suppan, who gave up
only two earned runs in his last four starts. "I was able to stay
out of trouble for the most part, but they had some good at-bats
against me. They saw a lot of pitches and fought off a lot of
pitches."

All the Cardinals' runs were unearned, following a throwing
error by All-Star shortstop Felipe Lopez in the third. Josh Hancock
(1-0), sidelined most of the season by a groin injury, threw one
perfect inning to get the win. David Weathers pitched the ninth for
his 14th save.

Left-hander Randy Keisler, who was moved from the bullpen to
replace struggling starter Luke Hudson, thought he had escaped a
bases-loaded threat in the third when Grudzielanek grounded to
Lopez with two outs. The errant throw let in two runs and set up
the collision between Grudzielanek and Valentin.

Two pitches later, John Gall hit his second major league homer
for a 5-2 lead. It was the NL-leading 200th homer off Cincinnati's
staff, which gave up 236 last season.

Gall threw out Lopez at the plate when he tried to score in the
seventh, keeping it tied at 5. Valentin followed with an RBI single
off Ray King (4-3), a pleasing sight for interim manager Jerry
Narron.

"We don't have a lot of guys who have been in a pennant race,"
Narron said. "I've preached to the guys how important one pitch
is, not just one at-bat. In the next 12 games, I'd like to see them
grind it out pitch by pitch."

Game notes
A specialist examined Reds OF Ken Griffey Jr., sidelined
since he strained his right foot while running the bases on Sept.
4. No serious injury was detected, and Griffey remains day-to-day.
... Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman was honored on the field
before the game for his upcoming induction into the National Radio
Hall of Fame. ... It was Valentin's first start of the season at
first base and the fourth of his career. ... The 1999 Reds also hit
312 doubles.