Cards end a win short of the limit, drop finale to Marlins

Monday, May 17, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Armando Benitez shut down the St. Louis Cardinals, just as he's done against almost every team this season.

Florida's closer earned the ninth two-inning save of his career in a 3-2 victory Sunday, helping the Marlins avoid a three-game sweep.

Benitez has a 0.39 ERA and is 15-for-16 on save chances. He's gone 22 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.

"Everybody was talking about how bad he is, but he's one of the best closers in the league," starter Brad Penny said. "Nobody wanted him last year and I'm glad. That way we were fortunate to get a guy like that."

Penny worked six solid innings, and the Marlins, who scored only six runs in the series, got a pair of big two-out hits.

Juan Pierre's two-run double in the fourth gave the team its only multirun inning, and Mike Mordecai got his first RBI of the year for Florida, which completed a 3-3 road trip against the Astros and Cardinals.

"It's always nice to go on the road and play .500 and that's basically what we did in two very tough cities, Houston and St. Louis," manager Jack McKeon said. "We're very fortunate to be where we were when we left off."

Jim Edmonds hit his ninth homer leading off the fourth for the Cardinals, who wrapped up a 4-2 homestand -- their first winning homestand of the season. Edmonds, who also made an outstanding, over-the-shoulder catch of Mordecai's drive in the fourth, was disappointed only with the final score.

"Actually, I don't know if you can say it stings," Edmonds said. "We just came up short and that's just baseball. It's not like it was an ugly game or anything, it was just one of those things."

Penny (4-2) allowed one run and five hits, winning for the fourth time in five decisions. He struck out six and walked two.

Benitez is 9-for-9 in save situations against the Cardinals, allowing one run in 20 2-3 innings. Pitching for the first time in three games, he got his first two-inning save of the season.

The Cardinals had a runner on second with none out in the eighth before Benitez retired the 3-4-5 batters, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Edmonds, without a ball leaving the infield. The right-hander struck out two and walked one in the ninth.

"My job is not supposed to be easy," Benitez said. "If they need me, hey, give me the ball."

Woody Williams (1-4) worked out of bases-loaded situations in the third and fifth. He allowed three runs, one earned, and nine hits in seven innings, but failed in his attempt to open and close the homestand with a win.

The Marlins scored only two runs in 17 innings before taking the lead in the second. Luis Castillo, batting sixth for the first time all season, singled with two outs and scored on Mordecai's double on an 0-2 count.

"When you get in a situation like that you've got to make a better pitch," Williams said. "When you're up there hitting 0-2 and a guy throws one that makes your eyes light up, that's not what you're supposed to do."

Mordecai made his first start at shortstop after Damion Easley, the backup to Alex Gonzalez, bruised his leg breaking up a double play on Saturday.

Pierre also hit an 0-2 pitch for his two-run double that made it 3-0 in the fourth. Both runs were unearned after Rolen, perhaps hurrying to try for a double play, booted Ramon Castro's one-out grounder to third.

Castillo was 2-for-3 and scored twice.

The Cardinals cut the gap to a run in the eighth when Tony Womack drew a leadoff walk from Matt Perisho, stole second and scored on pinch-hitter Reggie Sanders' single.

Notes: Pujols hit his 150th career double in the third. He's in his fourth season. ... Womack is 0-for-12 against Penny. ... Mordecai was 4-for-27 in his previous 17 road games. ... Bat day drew a sellout crowd of 46,889. ... The Cardinals haven't swept the Marlins since May 2000. ... Marlins LHP Dontrelle Willis, who entered batting .412, grounded out to second in his first pinch-hit appearance of the season to end the eighth.

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