Molina, Ankiel lead Cards past Cincinnati

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Wainwright picked up the win in an 11-3 decision.

ST. LOUIS -- Rick Ankiel had another big day, raising his average to .354. No one would believe he used to be a pitcher.

Ankiel drove in three runs a day after hitting his first career grand slam, and Yadier Molina had three RBIs and homered for the second straight game in the St. Louis Cardinals' 11-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

"He's just getting hits and he's having good at-bats, whatever the numbers are," manager Tony La Russa said of Ankiel. "He's competing beautifully and if he keeps doing that, everything takes care of itself."

Jim Edmonds gave the Cardinals a trio of three-RBI players, and his two-run double off rookie Phil Dumatrait (0-3) was the go-ahead hit in a four-run fifth that put the Cardinals ahead 5-2.

The defending World Series champions climbed back to .500 for the second time this week and also the second time since April 16.

"The trick is to not go back down now," starter Adam Wainwright said. "Now we just need to ride this and hopefully get some momentum and just keep it going."

The resilient Cardinals, who lost outfielder Juan Encarnacion (eye) and Scott Rolen (shoulder) for the season on Friday, remained two games behind the Cubs in the National League Central. They've taken the first two games of a three-game series against the Reds, who entered the series on an 8-2 tear.

David Ross, Adam Dunn and Scott Hatteberg drove in a run for Cincinnati, which committed two errors that contributed to three unearned runs.

"I've been bragging about our defense and we've been outstanding in the month of August," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "But the last couple of days have not been our greatest moments."

Ankiel hit a two-run double in the sixth for a 7-2 lead, singled twice and had a sacrifice fly in the seventh for an 11-2 cushion. He's 13-for-27 (.481) during a seven-game hitting streak and has five homers and 17 RBIs in only 65 at-bats since being called up from Triple-A Memphis on Aug. 9.

Molina had three hits, and has hit five of his six homers in his last 14 games to tie his single-season high. Known mostly for his defense and strong arm, he's had multihit games in nine of his last 19 starts to raise his average to .285, after batting only .216 last year.

"I said last year was just a fluke because he's always hit," La Russa said. "He's just really taking good swings, staying on the ball."

Wainwright (13-9) survived early trouble to beat the Reds for the first time in three starts, after going 0-2 with a 5.60 ERA the first two meetings. Wainwright needed 33 pitches to exit the third when the Reds took a 2-1 lead on Adam Dunn's bases-loaded single, but retired nine of the next 10 batters.

Wainwright ended up one out shy of his 14th quality start in 19 appearances. In 5 2-3 innings, he gave up two runs -- one earned -- and six hits.

The Cardinals improved to 14-4 in their last 18 home games and 16-10 with the pitcher batting eighth.

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