Molina delivers winner in ninth

Sunday, August 8, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Larry Walker is 1-0 with the St. Louis Cardinals, and he played a supporting role in the victory with his new team.

Rookie Yadier Molina, batting with the bases loaded after an intentional walk to Walker, blooped a single to center with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday for a 2-1 victory over the New York Mets.

Walker, acquired in a trade with Colorado on Friday night, was welcomed with a standing ovation that lasted well over a minute when he pinch hit with two on and one out in the seventh. A near-sellout crowd of 45,364 stayed on its feet throughout the at-bat and gave him another standing ovation even after he struck out against Kris Benson.

"Probably one of the most nervous at-bats I've had in my career was today," Walker said. "The ovation I got, even after I struck out, I felt like I was supposed to wave to the crowd and say thanks. It was amazing."

Walker soon participated in the winning rally. The fans booed when the five-time All-Star was walked intentionally by Mike Stanton (0-5) with runners on second and third and two outs in the ninth. Molina followed by dumping a soft single into shallow left-center.

"They walked a good hitter," Molina said. "They're just playing the game. That was my part."

Mets manager Art Howe said it would have been dumb to pitch to Walker. Stanton blamed himself for walking the first two hitters he faced, including John Mabry on four pitches.

"When you get yourself in a corner like that, there's no room for error," Stanton said. "It's just ridiculous. I can't go out there and do what I just did."

Walker, the 1997 NL MVP, arrived at Busch Stadium about a half-hour before the game, too late to be in the starting lineup with his new team. But he went to right field after pinch-hitting, perhaps easing his transition to St. Louis after 9 1/2 seasons in Colorado.

"I'm happy to be here," Walker said. "It's a great situation, great team, great fans. There's only one way to think, and that's good."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said before the game that he would bat Walker second or fourth in the lineup when he makes his first start today in the finale of a six-game homestand. But Walker said he would be batting fifth against left-hander Al Leiter.

Steve Kline and Julian Tavarez (4-3) combined to strike out the side in the top of the ninth for the Cardinals, who have won 15 of 19 and have the best record in the major leagues at 71-38.

Woody Williams and Benson had strong starts. Williams had a no-hitter through five innings for St. Louis, and gave up one run and two hits in seven innings. Benson allowed a run and four hits in seven innings in his second start for the Mets.

The teams combined for only eight hits, five by the Cardinals.

Kaz Matsui had an RBI single in the sixth for the Mets. He left the game due to soreness in his lower left leg in the seventh.

Scott Rolen doubled with one out in the fourth and scored on Mabry's one-out single to put the Cardinals ahead.

The Mets tied it in the sixth when Jose Reyes doubled for New York's first hit and scored on Matsui's single.

Williams was far from dominant early, falling behind in the count to 10 of his first 12 batters, and he worked his way out of trouble in the second after walking Cliff Floyd and hitting Mike Cameron with a pitch to start the inning.

"I think once I get my sweat going and feet wet, I seem to settle down and make pitches," Williams said. "Early on I was kind of all over the place."

Williams also made the defensive play of the game with a sliding stop of Reyes' drag bunt near the first-base line in the third and a shovel toss to first for the out. In his last 10 starts, he's 5-0 with a 2.77 ERA.Noteworthy

  • Albert Pujols was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He has struck out twice in a game only three times this season, and this was the first time since June 4.

  • The Cardinals are 9-2 against the Mets the last two seasons, including 4-1 this year.

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