The Redbird Report 09/08

The Cardinals had a chance to go two games over .500 for the first time this year and also had an opportunity to take over undisputed first place in the National League Central Division for the first time. They did neither.

Some sloppy defense and a rare bullpen letdown helped the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 4-2 victory, knocking the Cardinals to .500 at 69-69 and keeping them one game behind the Cubs and Brewers.

A throwing error by third baseman Russell Branyan allowed Arizona second baseman Augie Ojeda to score all the way from first base in the second inning. In the sixth, Cardinals second baseman Aaron Miles stumbled as he attempted to step on second and throw to first for an inning-ending double play. Miles got only a force-out as a runner scored from third.

Then, right-hander Ryan Franklin, in a 3-2 game with two out in the eighth, threw a full-count pitch for a home run by Arizona first baseman Tony Clark.

Manager Tony La Russa insisted before the game that the Cardinals would not be distracted by the furor surrounding right fielder Rick Ankiel, who, according to the New York Daily News, received a shipment of growth hormones in 2004.

"After all we've been through this year... we've practiced this many times," said La Russa, who has had a player (right-handed pitcher Josh Hancock) die, among other misfortunes this season.

"Once the facts are in, the people who admired (Ankiel) are going to admire him more," said La Russa. "I think Rick Ankiel's amazing, and everybody is going to see it in a different way."

DIAMONDBACKS 4, CARDINALS 2: Adam Wainwright gave up only two earned runs in six innings, but suffered his 11th loss against 13 victories Friday. Down a run, the Cardinals had a chance to tie the game in the eighth, but free-swinging third baseman Russell Branyan fanned with a runner at third and one out. Yadier Molina then grounded out to end the threat.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--1B Albert Pujols had two hits and singled home his 86th run.

--RF Rick Ankiel singled on the first pitch he saw but went 1-for-4. Ankiel said any medicines he had had taken had been prescribed by a licensed physician. Speaking before the game, he was testy and did not address whether any of those medicines was HGH.

"I'm not going to go into the list of what my doctors have prescribed for me. I've been through a lot, emotionally and physically. There are doctor and patient privileges, and I hope you guys respect those privileges. I respect the integrity of the game, and I'm on the same playing level that everybody else is on," he said.

--RHP Brad Thompson has been nominated to start Sunday's series finale -- if he's not needed Saturday night. He would replace RHP Kip Wells (6-16), who has been yanked from the rotation.

--The Cardinals have won the coin flip with Chicago and would be home against the Cubs if there was a playoff for the division title. The Cardinals lost a similar flip with Milwaukee.

--RHP Adam Wainwright, who suffered his 11th loss, blamed himself for walking the leadoff man in the sixth after being staked to a 2-1 lead. Arizona got two runs in the inning and he said, "I was given a lead against Brandon Webb and I blew it. That's the bottom line. It's really like I got punched in the stomach. I let the team down tonight."


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