CINCINNATI -- Baseball's Civil Rights Game ended with a good-enough throw and a timely tag.
Shortstop Orlando Cabrera's relay to Ramon Hernandez was just in time to nail Skip Schumaker at the plate for the final out Saturday night, preserving the Cincinnati Reds' 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals with a finish as wild as it gets."That's the first save like that in my life," said closer Francisco Cordero, who nearly gave it away. "It's not fun. For me, it's a little disappointing. Today, they saved me. It was a perfect play."Cordero came on trying to hold a 4-2 lead and gave up three hits, including Schumaker's run-scoring single. With two outs, pinch-hitter Joe Mather lined a ball into the left-field corner, sending Schumaker off and running from first base."I knew it was going to be a bang-bang play because Joe hit it hard," Schumaker said. "Hernandez made a really good play to come back to the plate."Rookie Chris Heisey, inserted for defensive purposes, got to the ball quickly when it stopped against the wall and made an on-target throw to Cabrera, who whirled and got the ball to the plate. His throw was a little to the foul side, but in time for Hernandez to make the tag.It was close."They have to make two good throws and a catch and tag," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "I have no problems being aggrssive. If one of the throws is off-line, we get a run and tie the game."Drew Stubbs hit a two-run triple in the sixth inning, foiling St. Louis' strategy to pitch to him, and rookie right-hander Mike Leake (4-0) remained unbeaten with the help of the dramatic finish.Stubbs hit his tiebreaking triple after Adam Wainwright (5-2) intentionally walked Jonny Gomes, putting the Reds up 4-2. Gomes had already homered, and Stubbs was batting .195 with a team-high 36 strikeouts at the time."It was huge," Stubbs said. "That gives me extra motivation, and coming through that way gets you going."Leake allowed four hits and a pair of runs in six innings, including Colby Rasmus' solo homer.The 22-year-old rookie has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, jumping straight from Arizona State to the majors. The right-hander was Cincinnati's first-round pick last June -- eighth overall -- and won the fifth spot in the rotation during the final week of spring training.Leake, known for his nasty curve, is the first Reds rookie to win his first four decisions since 1976, when Santo Alcala went 5-0 and Pat Zachary started 4-0.In this one, he had to adjust to a lineup that seemed to have a line on him."I think my reputation is I try to get ahead early (in the count), I try to get early outs," Leake said. "They were lifting the ball early instead of pounding it into the ground, so I had to make an adjustment. I threw different first pitches. I was getting fastball-happy, and I started mixing in different pitches."The annual game honoring those who have worked for equality drew the Reds' first capacity crowd since opening day. The teams wore replica caps and jerseys from 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier.The sport's problem attracting black athletes was evident in the ceremonial first pitch. Hall of Famer Ernie Banks tossed one to Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, the only black player in either starting lineup. Last year, only 9 percent of major leaguers were black.
Hall of Famer Willie Mays, tennis pioneer Billie Jean King and entertainer/civil rights activist Harry Belafonte were honored on the field before the game. They received Major League Baseball's Beacon awards at a luncheon on Saturday. ... Pujols leads the NL with 12 intentional walks. ... Cordero got his 12th save in 14 chances.