The Redbird Report 05/01

After seeing his average sink to .241, center fielder Rick Ankiel is back on point. He finished up an 8-for-13 series against the Cincinnati Reds with three singles and two RBIs Wednesday.

"As of late, I feel I've been getting better pitches to hit -- for whatever reason," said Ankiel, who was moved to No. 2 in the order ahead of first baseman Albert Pujols until he got himself squared away.

Manager Tony La Russa said, "(Ankiel) really wasn't getting beat at the plate. He was just getting the ball into the air too much."

Right-hander Braden Looper became the first Cardinals starter to have four or more wins in April since Chris Carpenter three years ago. He labored through 114 pitches but gave up just two runs in six innings, including only his second homer.

"I didn't have my best stuff, but I was able to pitch with what I had. They kept fouling my good pitches off," said Looper.

CARDINALS 5, REDS 2: The Cardinals finished April having lost just one of the 10 series they played by taking the rubber game of a three-game set with Cincinnati. Right-hander Braden Looper won for the fourth time in five decisions as the Cardinals bunched four consecutive hits for two runs in the third inning. The second run -- the game-winner -- was knocked in by center fielder Rick Ankiel.

QUOTES AND NOTES

--RHP Jason Isringhausen said it was good to "clear his head" after a 1-2-3 ninth inning netted his ninth save. Isringhausen had given up 10 hits and eight runs in five innings over his previous six outings, blowing two saves and suffering two losses.

"I try to tell myself, 'I've been doing this for 15, 16 years. I've gone through funks before,'" Isringhausen said. "But every time you go through a funk for a week and a half or two weeks, it always creeps into your head, 'Do I have enough left to get people out?'"

-- LHP Mark Mulder was hit hard Wednesday in a rehab start for Class AAA Memphis. Mulder allowed nine runs (seven earned) in 3 2/3 innings against the Angels' Salt Lake affiliate. In his previous three rehab starts, one for Class A Palm Beach and two for Class AA Springfield, Mulder had been 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has been saying all along that he wasn't eager to rush Mulder through this process as the latter continues his recovery from a second shoulder surgery last year. "When he comes back, there's going to be a lot of attention, a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure," La Russa said. "Let him come back when it's fair."

--Rookie OF Brian Barton got his fifth pinch hit in 13 at-bats when he started a two-run rally in the seventh with a single.

--LHP Ron Villone probably knew he was going to face Cincinnati slugger Adam Dunn late in Wednesday's contest. Dunn was just 1-for-16 against Villone, who got Dunn on a soft liner to 1B Albert Pujols this time.

--After having to wait until the eighth inning for a walk that kept the streak alive Tuesday, 1B Albert Pujols singled in the third Wednesday to extend his streak of reaching base to 29 games.


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