Cardinals Major League Notebook: 04/10/10

The Cardinal Nation learned how to spell "Stavinoha" Friday night as the Cardinals came back to win in the ninth on the outfielder's two-run pinch-hit home run at Milwaukee.



Talk about your improbable situations. The Cardinals were facing Milwaukee closer Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader at 593, down by a run in the ninth inning Friday with a runner at first and two outs. The hitter was right-hand-hitting Nick Stavinoha, who hadn't gotten off the bench in the first three games of the season. He was pinch hitting.


"That's about as tough as it gets," said manager Tony La Russa. "Ninth inning against Trevor Hoffman.


"But (Stavinoha) has got a well-deserved reputation coming up through our system as taking some tough at-bats. Every hitting coach or manager who's ever had him always has said the same thing about Stav -- that he'll take a tough at-bat as well as anybody."


Stavinoha made his mark last year with the Cardinals in a couple of trials when he hit .333 as a pinch hitter (5-for-15). But he had to fight this spring to make the club for the first time out of spring training.


He lofted a 1-2 pitch from Hoffman well over the left-field wall and the Cardinals stole back a game they seemed destined to lose.


La Russa said he had told Stavinoha earlier that he would be his ninth-inning pinch hitter.


"He's got more experience than anybody (else who was left)," said La Russa.


CARDINALS 5, BREWERS 4: Righty Kyle Lohse, having trouble with umpire Jeff Kellogg's strike zone, walked two hitters in a row that cost him two runs in the fourth inning and generally had an up-and-down game in allowing four runs in six innings. But left fielder Matt Holliday's homer in the sixth cut the Milwaukee lead to one run and pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha's dramatic, two-run, two-out homer in the ninth won the game.




--RHP Blake Hawksworth, appearing for the first time this season, worked a perfect seventh, LHP Dennys Reyes got a key pickoff in the eighth and RHP Ryan Franklin got his second save with a scoreless ninth to lead the Cardinals' bullpen, which had been criticized for its work in the season's first three games.


--LHP Dennys Reyes, who got into trouble by his own devices later in the inning, blunted Milwaukee's first attempt to score in the eighth when he picked LF Ryan Braun off first base. Reyes said he had figured Braun, who swiped 20 bases last year, was going to steal and he noticed that Braun had taken another step of a lead after Reyes initially had thrown to first. "When they give you an extra step, you've got a chance to pick them off," said Reyes, who cranked up his 'A move.' "I'll take that anytime."


--OF Nick Stavinoha's game-winning pinch homer was the second such homer of his career. The Cardinals had had just one other (unsuccessful) pinch at-bat in the first three games.


--Rallying to win when trailing after eight innings was not the Cardinals' strong suit last year. They were 4-59 when down after eight.


--Manager Tony La Russa said he wasn't surprised that Milwaukee's Ken Macha walked 1B Albert Pujols to get to LF Matt Holliday in the eighth, putting the potential winning run on base. Holliday had singled, doubled and homered but was 1-for-5 against Milwaukee RHP LaTroy Hawkins while Pujols was 4-for-9 with a homer. Hawkins struck out Holliday to end the inning. "That's a terrible spot for a manager," said La Russa. "I think you've got to applaud Ken's guts. He thought that was the right move and he had the guts to make it."


--CF Colby Rasmus, who walked ahead of Stavinoha's game-winning homer, has drawn seven base on balls in four games.


--RF Ryan Ludwick, moved from sixth to second, struck out three times in four at-bats as the modest reshuffling of the Cardinals' lineup didn't pay many dividends Friday. SS Brendan Ryan, dropped from second to eighth, fanned twice in three at-bats.

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