Redbirds get scare in loss to Reds

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

St. Louis second baseman Mark Grudzielanek left Tuesday's game with a twisted ankle.

CINCINNATI -- The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping their latest injury is gone by the time the playoffs arrive.

Rich Aurilia drove in three runs with a homer and a single Tuesday night, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-5 victory over the NL Central champions in a game that had little meaning for either team.

Until Mark Grudzielanek hit the ground, that is.

The Cardinals have won 95 games even though the everyday lineup has been battered by injuries. They suffered another on Tuesday when their second baseman twisted his right ankle in a collision with Reds first baseman Javier Valentin while running out a grounder.

A few hours later, it appeared the Cardinals would get lucky this time.

"It stung a little bit, but I'm fine now, really," Grudzielanek said. "I don't see it swelling."

Grudzielanek has missed games in the last month because of a sore back and knee. He smacked into Valentin -- who was trying to field an errant throw -- and spun around before landing awkwardly. He sat on the field with a grimace for several minutes, then walked off slowly.

With two weeks left before the playoffs, manager Tony La Russa wants to keep his regulars sharp by keeping them in the lineup most of the time. The Cardinals reached the World Series last year but were swept by Boston.

La Russa was relieved that Grudzielanek's injury didn't appear to be serious, leaving him listed as day-to-day.

"He's feeling better," La Russa said. "It was just a freak thing. You hope it's not serious."

The Reds won for only the fourth time in 11 games this season against the Cardinals, who clinched the division title over the weekend. The Reds remained one loss away from guaranteeing their fifth straight season without a winning record -- their deepest rut since they went from 1945-55 without a winning record.

The victory put them in line to break another bad streak -- four straight losing seasons at home, their longest such stretch since 1929-34. One more victory during the homestand will end that one.

"There are certain things we want to play for," Aurilia said. "We want to finish above .500 at home. The win tonight helped us out a lot."

Jeff Suppan failed in his bid for his 16th win. The left-hander gave up Aurilia's two-run homer in the first and his RBI single in the fifth, which tied it at 5. Adam Dunn also had a two-run double that let the Reds match their franchise record of 312 two-base hits in a season.

"The three guys I walked all scored," said Suppan, who gave up only two earned runs in his last four starts. "I was able to stay out of trouble for the most part, but they had some good at-bats against me. They saw a lot of pitches and fought off a lot of pitches."

All the Cardinals' runs were unearned, following a throwing error by All-Star shortstop Felipe Lopez in the third. Josh Hancock (1-0), sidelined most of the season by a groin injury, threw one perfect inning to get the win. David Weathers pitched the ninth for his 14th save.

Left-hander Randy Keisler, who was moved from the bullpen to replace struggling starter Luke Hudson, thought he had escaped a bases-loaded threat in the third when Grudzielanek grounded to Lopez with two outs. The errant throw let in two runs and set up the collision between Grudzielanek and Valentin.

Two pitches later, John Gall hit his second major league homer for a 5-2 lead. It was the NL-leading 200th homer off Cincinnati's staff, which gave up 236 last season.

Gall threw out Lopez at the plate when he tried to score in the seventh, keeping it tied at 5. Valentin followed with an RBI single off Ray King (4-3), a pleasing sight for interim manager Jerry Narron.

"We don't have a lot of guys who have been in a pennant race," Narron said. "I've preached to the guys how important one pitch is, not just one at-bat. In the next 12 games, I'd like to see them grind it out pitch by pitch."

Notes: A specialist examined Reds OF Ken Griffey Jr., sidelined since he strained his right foot while running the bases on Sept. 4. No serious injury was detected, and Griffey remains day-to-day. ... Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman was honored on the field before the game for his upcoming induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. ... It was Valentin's first start of the season at first base and the fourth of his career. ... The 1999 Reds also hit 312 doubles.

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