Ludwick belts two HRs in 11-7 win over Reds

Monday, July 2, 2007
Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick blasted a three-run home run off Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ricky Stone during the fourth inning of Sunday's game in Cincinnati. It was the second home run of the game for Ludwick. (DAVID KOHL ~ Associated Press)

CINCINNATI -- This one deserved the yardstick.

Ryan Ludwick hit a solo homer that landed above the batter's eye -- an impressive drive that everyone in the ballpark watched except him -- and added a three-run shot Sunday, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to an 11-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Ludwick's two homers offset another noteworthy one by Ken Griffey Jr. and left the most lasting memory on an afternoon when the ball was carrying well.

"That one's probably in my top five," said Ludwick, who now has 19 career homers in the majors and 140 in the minors. "I've hit balls that hard before, but in the minor leagues they don't measure them. Here they happen to measure them."

This one came in at 473 feet, tied for the ninth-longest in Great American Ball Park's five seasons. Ludwick was rounding the bases with his head down when it landed in a riverboat-themed party area above the batter's eye.

"You knew it was gone, but you weren't sure how far," Cardinals left-hander Mike Maroth said. "It got up there on the balcony of the ship. That's pretty impressive."

The Cardinals overcame a disappointing start by Maroth, who gave up Griffey's 585th career homer and left the game after failing to get an out in the fourth inning.

Instead, the latest addition to the bullpen came through again.

Reliever Troy Percival (2-0) got his second victory of the series, a triumphant return for the former closer. The 37-year-old reliever was out of baseball for two years because of a bad elbow, but made a comeback at the urging of several friends on the team.

Throwing a 90 mph fastball that has surprised everyone, Percival pitched out of a threat in the fourth to get the victory.

In another dose of discouragement for the major leagues' worst team, Reds rookie Homer Bailey got hit hard for the second straight start. The defining moment came in the third, when Ludwick -- playing while Juan Encarnacion got a day of rest -- hit a knee-high fastball into the party center.

"It was a beautiful thing to see," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He was clutch. Plus, he hit another one. The way that game was going, we needed every one of them."

Ludwick added a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the fourth off Ricky Stone, the second multihomer game of his up-and-down career. The 28-year-old outfielder has played parts of seasons with Texas and Cleveland, spending most of his career bouncing around the minors.

His family is part of Cardinals lore. His brother, Eric, pitched for St. Louis and was one of three players traded to Oakland for Mark McGwire on July 31, 1997.

Ludwick is still trying to find his way.

"I've been real inconsistent here," said Ludwick, who was called up May 6. "The good games have happened to be at good moments, when it's mattered."

Chris Duncan added a two-run homer for the Cardinals, who took two of three in the series. The Reds remained stuck with the worst record in the majors at 31-51, on pace to lose 100 games for the first time since 1982.

Griffey's three-run homer left him one behind Frank Robinson for sixth on the career list and was a prelude to his matchup in the next series against San Francisco's Barry Bonds.

Neither starter made it through the fourth inning, a particular disappointment for two teams near the bottom of the league in pitching.

The Cardinals got Maroth from Detroit in a June 22 trade to steady their depleted rotation. The left-hander gave up five runs in his second start for St. Louis, raising the rotation's ERA to 5.42, worst in the NL.

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