Even Spiezio pitched an inning as Oakland hammers the Cardinals

Saturday, June 16, 2007
Oakland Athletics baserunner Jack Cust, right, slid to score behind St. Louis Cardinals catcher Gary Bennett during the fourth inning Friday in Oakland, Calif. (Ben Margot ~ Associated Press)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Only one of the four pitchers the St. Louis Cardinals sent to the mound Friday night gave up fewer runs than innings pitched, and he is normally a third baseman.

Scott Spiezio pitched the final inning and the Cardinals lost 14-3 to the Oakland Athletics, a night after allowing 17 runs to the Kansas City Royals.

Braden Looper started the game, but had to leave with tightness in his right shoulder in the fifth. He allowed eight runs -- seven earned -- and relievers Andy Cavazos and Kelvin Jiminez allowed another six runs before Cardinals manager Tony La Russa threw up a white flag and used Spiezio to pitch the final inning.

It was a day La Russa would like to forget in his return to Oakland, the scene of his greatest triumphs until winning the World Series last year with the Cardinals.

"It wasn't a very happy experience," La Russa said. "It was very disappointing. I had a lot of family and friends here and playing well would have meant enjoying it more."

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Braden Looper kicked the mound during the third inning Friday in Oakland, Calif.

The Cardinals have already had to make do without former 20-game winners Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder. Looper (6-6), the Cardinals win leader, has allowed 22 earned runs in his last 22 innings and St. Louis has seen its team ERA balloon to an NL-worst 5.15.

"Early in the season when we couldn't hit, we could pitch. Now that we can hit, we can't pitch," La Russa said. "We have more problems than pluses and we have to reverse that."

Dan Haren, whom the Cardinals traded to get Mulder, won his eighth consecutive decision and continues to lead the majors with his 1.64 ERA.

Haren (8-2) has not lost since April 7, and has not allowed more than two earned runs in a start since April 13. The right-hander, pitching against his former team for the first time, allowed three runs -- two earned -- and six hits over seven innings. He walked three and struck out eight.

"Because it was my former team I was a little more amped up," Haren said. "It was a little more emotional than usual. Jason [Kendall] came out to talk to me in the third inning and basically wanted me to slow everything down."

Oakland's Mark Ellis (14) and Jack Cust celebrated after scoring against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning Friday in Oakland, Calif. Ellis and Cust scored on a two-run double by Jason Kendall. Cardinals catcher Gary Bennett, center, looked on.

Haren faced two over the minimum during his final five innings, helped by a pair of double plays.

"Everybody likes to do well against their former teams," A's manager Bob Geren said. "They got to him early but he made some adjustments. It was nice to see everybody getting it done."

Bobby Crosby and Kendall each drove in a pair of runs during a six-run third-inning, and Dan Johnson added a three-run homer in the seventh. Every A's starter had at least one hit against the Cardinals' struggling staff.

All but Crosby scored at least once.

Looper set down the first six hitters but then ran into trouble. Eight consecutive A's reached base safely to open the third, and the first six scored.

Mark Ellis walked and Jack Cust doubled ahead of Kendall's two-run double. Consecutive singles by Travis Buck and Mark Kotsay produced another run and Nick Swisher doubled home the fourth run. After Eric Chavez walked, Crosby singled home two more runs.

"It was crazy," Johnson said. "Everybody was hitting and getting on base and then I hit into the double play. I asked myself, 'What did I just do?' It's June now and it seems like everybody is clicking."

Looper said he felt something during the third inning, but managed to get through the fourth allowing an unearned run.

"That's about the weirdest inning I've ever pitched," Looper said. "I felt great and was locating the ball. It was pretty frustrating the way it transpired. That many runs in an inning is frustrating. It kept getting worse and then it was like a toothache; always there."

Even as Cavazos was pitching, La Russa had made the decision to use Spiezio. The Cardinals' last four losses have been by six or more and they've dropped 18 games by at least five runs. St. Louis has allowed at least eight runs in five of its last seven games.

"They had already scored enough," La Russa said. "I'm pleased it didn't turn into a big crooked number, which would have made it a real farce. It was already a tough enough loss. He threw three outs."

Spiezio became the first Cardinals position player to pitch since Cody McKay on April 8, 2004.

"He told me in the seventh to go out and warm up," Spiezio said. "When he approached me I thought I was going to pinch hit or play in the field. They told me to throw nothing but fastballs. Tony told me to go out there and have some fun. I haven't done it since high school."

Juan Encarnacion extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a leadoff single in the second. Chris Duncan followed with an RBI double and two outs later Aaron Miles singled home a run to put the Cardinals up 2-0.

The A's also batted around in the seventh, with Johnson's homer the big shot. Kotsay drove in two and Swisher singled in a run.

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