The former Cardinals pitcher, who experienced severe control problems and then arm trouble after a scintillating rookie year in 2000, has turned that arm into a weapon that threw out two runners in spectacular fashion Tuesday in Colorado.
Not only did the center fielder hit his sixth homer, which proved to be the insurance run, but in the first inning he also caught a flyball in center field and gunned down Colorado's Willy Taveras, who was trying to advance to third.
That was nothing, however, compared with the play he made to end the eighth inning. Omar Quintanilla doubled to the left-center gap but Ankiel, picking up the ball at the warning track after it had hit the wall, threw on the fly to third baseman Troy Glaus, and Quintanilla was out.
"Best throw I've ever seen," said Braden Looper, the winning pitcher. "Best one I've ever had behind me, for sure."
Glaus gave Ankiel the ball as the club came into the dugout after the inning, and manager Tony La Russa was gushing about the plays long after the game.
"I don't believe he did it," said La Russa. "I can't remember ever getting a bigger kick out of something. That doesn't happen.
"(Glaus) said that if he hadn't caught the ball, both throws would have hit the bag."
After the bullpen had to pitch 10 innings in the previous two games, Looper was told he had to stay out for 100 pitches or more. He made 114 in lasting 8 1/3 innings. He won his fifth game in six decisions after entering the game 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA at Coors Field.
Cardinals 6, Rockies 5: The Cardinals improved to 10 games over .500 with their sixth win in seven games. Ryan Ludwick had two doubles, two singles and a walk, and right-hander Ryan Franklin finally got the final out to quell a three-run Colorado rally in the ninth and gain his first save of the season.
NOTES AND QUOTES
• LHP Mark Mulder, complaining of fatigue in his left shoulder after his latest rehabilitation start at Class AAA Memphis on Monday, returned to St. Louis to have his arm examined by Dr. George Paletta, head of the Cardinals' medical staff. Mulder, still trying to build strength after a second shoulder surgery last summer, may be pulled off the 30-day rehabilitation program for a while. He probably had one start left.
• SS Cesar Izturis had two singles Tuesday. He has hit safely in seven consecutive games (10-for-27).
• RHP Braden Looper helped himself with two hits and a walk. It marked the third straight game that a Cardinals starter, hitting eighth, had at least one hit.
• Five of the Cardinals' six runs were scored with two out, including three in the second when Looper doubled with two out and nobody on to start the rally. "It would have been a much different game if we don't get those two-out hits," manager Tony La Russa said. "That was the key to the game."
• 1B Albert Pujols' first-inning double marked the 34th consecutive game in which he had reached base, breaking his season-opening best of 33 set in 2005.
By The Numbers: 18—Record-setting number of wins by the Cardinals in month of April.
Quote To Note: "If I had this outing in the middle of the spring, I wouldn't be freaking out about it. So I'm not."—LHP Mark Mulder, after a rough rehabilitation outing for Class AAA Memphis.
RHP Brad Thompson (right elbow soreness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23.
LHP Mark Mulder (shoulder surgery in September 2007) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He began a minor league rehab assignment April 15. He complained of fatigue after his May 5 start, and he might be shut down at least temporarily.
RHP Matt Clement (shoulder surgery in September 2006) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He could be ready for a rehab assignment in June.
RHP Chris Carpenter (Tommy John surgery in July 2007) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He was throwing bullpen sessions in late March, and he expects to be ready by late June or early July.
OF Juan Gonzalez (left abdominal strain) played only one game this spring. He was placed on the temporary inactive list March 26.
RHP Josh Kinney (broken right elbow in August 2007) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He experienced tightness in his elbow in late April and was shut down from throwing until mid-May.
LHP Tyler Johnson (left shoulder tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He received a cortisone shot, but surgery is possible.
RF Juan Encarnacion (fractured eye socket in August 2007) went on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He won't play this year.