Cardinals Survive Izzy's 3rd Blown Save

The Cardinals survived right-hander Jason Isringhausen's third blown save of the season, the most prolific closer in St. Louis history, has given up 10 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings pitched.

Chicago left fielder Alfonso Soriano hit a game-tying homer in the ninth -- when St. Louis left fielder Skip Schumaker, trying to loft a sacrifice fly in the 11th, did even better than that. Schumaker's long fly to right ended up in the stands for a two-run homer as the Cardinals extended their National League Central Division lead to 1-1/2 games.

Infielder Aaron Miles, a productive late-inning bench player since he joined the Cardinals in 2006, started the 11th with a pinch-hit single off Chicago righty Chad Fox. Miles alertly went to second when a Fox pitch went off the glove of catcher Henry Blanco and to third on a bunt by infielder Brendan Ryan. Schumaker, who didn't start the game either, delivered the game-winner.

"Clutch execution," said manager Tony La Russa. "You've got a pinch hitter who gets two strikes and flips a single. You've got (the Cubs) playing bunt defense all over the place and Ryan drops a bunt. And Skip got a pitch to hit and didn't miss it. He's a very tough character."

There was concern about Isringhausen, though. The veteran closer has given up 10 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings over eight games and has blown three saves.

"He didn't get the ball down," said La Russa. "I asked him if he was all right and he said, 'OK.' But I'm not sure. He had trouble getting the ball down and that's something he does very well."

La Russa meant he was referring to Isringhausen's mechanics rather than his health.

Isringhausen did help keep the Cubs' ninth inning to two runs by making a diving play on shortstop Ryan Theriot's bunt.

The unsung hero was lefty Ron Villone, who pitched 2 1/3 innings for the win, his first as a Cardinal.

CARDINALS 5, CUBS 3: Left fielder Skip Schumaker hit the first walk-off homer of his career with a two-run drive in the 11th inning. The Cardinals got plenty of help from the Cubs for two of their first three runs. One scored on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning and the other scored via an error by first baseman Derrek Lee and two misplays by left fielder Alfonso Soriano in the seventh.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--RHP Adam Wainwright, who threw 126 pitches in his last start, a complete game on Saturday, was lifted in the seventh after 85 pitches even though he had given up only one run. "He had come off a demanding game," said manager Tony La Russa, "and even though he had extra time, once we got into the sixth or seventh, we were not going to push him at all."

--LHP Mark Mulder, who gave up nine runs and three homers in 3 2/3 innings in a rehabilitation start for Class AAA Memphis on Wednesday, said those numbers aren't alarming him and that he felt good about his progress as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery last year. "This is my spring training," he said Friday night. "If I had this outing in the middle of the spring, I wouldn't be freaking out about it. So I'm not."

--Tony La Russa had a brief meeting with President Bush at Lambert Airport Friday. "He congratulated us on our (19-11) start," said La Russa. La Russa, who received two packs of presidential playing cards as a gift, also got a brief tour of Air Force One before the President departed.

--RHP Brad Thompson, who went on the disabled list instead of to Class AAA Memphis, when he was optioned there, had a cortisone shot for his sore right elbow on Thursday. Thompson is out indefinitely.

--1B Albert Pujols walked in his first two plate appearances Friday, giving him 30 consecutive games in which he has reached base.

--SS Cesar Izturis made two brilliant defensive plays to turn base hits into force-outs. After a rocky spring defensively, Izturis has been nearly flawless, making only one error in 24 games.


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