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Padres shut down by Pineiro
Ankiel sluggeda three-run home runin the Cardinals'5-0 victory.
ST. LOUIS -- In spring training 2005, Rick Ankiel launched his new career as a 26-year-old minor league outfielder. In his first game back in the major leagues, he launched one out of the ballpark.
Ankiel's three-run homer capped a storybook return, and Joel Pineiro worked seven scoreless innings in the St. Louis Cardinals' 5-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night.
"Unbelievable," Ankiel said. "You almost can't put that into words."
The Cardinals took three of four from the National League West-contending Padres, spoiling the return of Chris Young in the finale. San Diego has scored one run in the last two games.
Ankiel, who led the Pacific Coast League with 32 homers for Triple-A Memphis, launched a 2-1 curveball from Doug Brocail over the right-field wall in the seventh with an effortless swing that put the Cardinals ahead 5-0.
"I pitched the report," Brocail said. "I have no idea how he hit that ball. It's good to see the kid back, though.
"You know, he wasn't too bad of a pitcher."
The drive merited a standing ovation and a curtain call for the once-troubled left-hander, who walked away from a pitching career in frustration more than two years ago. Manager Tony La Russa was misty-eyed at his postgame news conference and compared Ankiel's return with Adam Wainwright striking out the Tigers' Brandon Inge for the final out in the World Series.
"Short of winning the World Series, it's the happiest I've seen our club," La Russa said. "I'm fighting my butt off to keep it together.
"Next to striking out Inge, that's the happiest I've been in this uniform."
Even the Padres were impressed with Ankiel's conversion.
"I guess Babe Ruth was the last," said manager Bud Black, referring to pitchers converting into power-hitting outfielders. "It's quite a show of athleticism and quite a show of being a baseball player.
"It's a great story."
The homer was the third of Ankiel's career and the first since April 26, 2000, off Steve Woodard of the Brewers.
Pineiro, acquired from the Red Sox for a minor league player to be named, made his second start for his new team and retired the side in order three of his seven innings. He struck out four and walked none.