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Bennett's walk-off single lifts Cardinals past Cubs

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The first seven hitters in the St. Louis
Cardinals' order were a quiet 3-for-27. It was the last two that
the Chicago Cubs could not handle.

Chris Carpenter pitched eight sharp innings before leaving
because of cramping, and seldom-used Gary Bennett homered and hit
an RBI single with two outs in the ninth in a 2-1 victory on
Saturday.

The pitcher and catcher combined for five of St. Louis' eight
hits.

"The bottom of the order, they really hurt us today," Cubs
manager Dusty Baker said.

Carpenter held the Cubs to two hits, struck out five and walked
one. He threw 100 pitches, and took the mound to start the ninth.
But after throwing a few warmups, the Cardinals ace consulted with
trainer Barry Weinberg and manager Tony La Russa and left.

Carpenter said his toes, forearms and calves were cramping even
though it was not an especially warm day with the gametime
temperature at 78 degrees. He had troubles with dehydration earlier
in the season, leaving a game with cramps in his fingers.

"I was trying as hard as I could to play it down and I went out
there and everything -- my toes, my forearms and my calves -- were
locking up," Carpenter said. "I wasn't going to go out there and
hurt the team's chance to win."

Bennett has two straight three-hit games for the NL
Central-leading Cardinals. St. Louis had entered the series in a
slump that had dropped it into a virtual tie for first place with
Cincinnati.

Bennett made his third straight start in place of catcher Yadier
Molina, who's been hampered by tendinitis in his throwing elbow.
He's likely to get at least a few more starts before Molina
returns.

"It definitely doesn't hurt to see live pitching every day,"
Bennett said. "I'm not saying it's going to always translate into
a bunch of hits, but you're going to have better at-bats, for
sure."

Preston Wilson singled off Roberto Novoa (2-1) with one out in
the ninth and stole second. After Ronnie Belliard fouled out,
Bennett singled to left-center field and Wilson scored easily.

Randy Flores (1-1) allowed a hit in the ninth.

Carpenter held the Cubs without a hit until Phil Nevin's
opposite-field single to right with two outs in the fifth. The Cubs
didn't advance a runner past first base until Nevin's 12th homer
tied it at 1 with one out in the eighth.

"I think I'm the only guy he made a bad pitch to," Nevin said.
"In fact, I joked with him down at first base when he got there
that he's never straightened one out like that for me."

Cubs reliever Bob Howry escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth
that featured the second single of the game by Carpenter, a .132
hitter. Scott Rolen fouled out for the third out after Albert
Pujols was intentionally walked.

Bennett hit his third homer, all coming in the last eight games,
off Rich Hill with one out in the third.

Bennett has only 134 at-bats all season, fewest among players
who have been with the Cardinals all season. He's 8-for-11 in his
mini-stint as the regular, and all three of his homers have come in
the last eight games.

Hill worked seven innings and gave up one run on four hits with
two strikeouts and no walks, and was removed after warming up to
start the eighth. He rebounded from a pair of difficult starts this
month in which he allowed 11 runs in 10 2-3 innings.

"Now the confidence level is over with," Hill said. "Just
going out there and getting the job done is the bottom line."

Cardinals rookie left fielder Chris Duncan, who misplayed three
balls that ended up as doubles on Friday, made the best defensive
play behind Carpenter. Duncan swerved to correct his bead on a
drive to the gap before leaving his feet to snare Freddie Bynum's
drive near the track in the first.

Game notes
The Cubs' Ronny Cedeno is in a 3-for-30 slump. ... The
Cardinals are 12-15 when Pujols goes hitless, although they've won
the first two games of the series without him. Pujols is a combined
0-for-7 thus far. ... Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds, who struck out four
times with a walk on Friday in his first start since leaving an
Aug. 15 game with blurred vision and dizziness, struck out as a
pinch-hitter in the eighth.