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Cardinals cap first half of season with rally against Marlins closer
ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Furcal warmed up for his National League All-Star game start by triggering a home plate celebration. Heath Bell heads into the All-Star break with his job in jeopardy.
Furcal capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a two-run, bases-loaded single off the vulnerable Miami closer that gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory over the Marlins on Sunday and a feeling of exhilaration in the clubhouse.
"That's pretty good, especially when it's 4-2 in the ninth inning and against one of the best closers in the game," Furcal said. "It's very special to do that, and now we're ready to go for the second half."
Pinch hitter Austin Kearns put the Marlins up 4-2 with a three-run home run in the seventh.
The blown save was the sixth in 25 chances for Bell (2-5), saddled with a 6.75 ERA. The right-hander gave up a run while earning his 19th save in the series opener Friday and Ryan Webb was warming up when the game ended.
"I feel like I've let the whole organization down," Bell said. "I'm the reason that we're 10 games back, plain and simple.
"If I've been doing my job we'd be right in the hunt."
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen put Bell on notice, but said he'd wait until after the break before deciding anything. The right-hander is in the first year of a three-year, $27 million free agent deal after three consecutive 40-plus save season with the Padres. He was 15-9 with 132 saves in 146 chances and a 2.23 ERA from 2009 to 2011.
The Marlins actually are nine games out in the NL East.
"I've stood behind him, but he's got to be better than that," Guillen said. "He is better than that. If he's not better, I'll find a solution.
"I have to make a decision, and it will be drastic."
Guillen wasn't happy with Hanley Ramirez, either. Ramirez left the game with a lacerated right finger that needed stitches from punching a cooling fan in the dugout after grounding out in the sixth.
"A very stupid injury," Guillen said. "Very immature, very immature. You hurt yourself because you can't hit? Good hitters don't do that."
Marlins general manager Mike Hill thought Ramirez would be ready when Miami begins a four-game series at home against the Nationals on Friday. Ramirez, batting .248 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs, was embarrassed.
"I got mad. I know I've been playing hard, but at the same time I've got to produce more. I'll be there Friday. I think definitely. I'm going to die on the field."
Mitchell Boggs (2-1) struck out Donovan Solano with the bases loaded to end the ninth after Marc Rzepczynski left with heat-related woes in a game that began with the temperature at 94 degrees. Rzepczynski said he was having trouble focusing on the catcher's glove.
"Not overheated, but getting very close to it," Rzepczynski said.
Furcal also had an RBI single in the fifth and has 36 RBIs overall, most among National League leadoff men. He singled to left on a 1-2 pitch and David Freese barely beat catcher John Buck's tag for the winning run.
"Great way to end the first half," Freese said. "We worked some good ABs off Bell and got it done."
Buck had the ball ahead of the slide, and the Marlins briefly argued the call. Buck said home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi had gotten it right after watching a replay, .
"I came in here and checked it, and I think he got it," Buck said.
The Cardinals took two of three from Miami and headed into the All-Star break on a 6-2 streak.
The Marlins were minus another star most of the series. Giancarlo Stanton, the team's lone All-Star, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Sunday after playing just two innings a day earlier.
Hill said the surgery was a success and that the team was hopeful Stanton would be back in four to six weeks.
Omar Infante added three hits, and Logan Morrison and Greg Dobbs extended their hitting streaks to 11 games for Miami, which has won seven of 11 despite the loss.
Tony Cruz cut the deficit to a run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly with one out in the ninth, and Daniel Descalso coaxed an 11-pitch walk to load the bases again ahead of Furcal's winning hit. Furcal, who had been 0 for 4 with the bases loaded and 0 for 10 the last two seasons, is 5 for 14 against Bell with four RBIs and four walks.
The top three in the Marlins' order, Jose Reyes, Ramirez and Carlos Lee, were a collective 1 for 31 with five walks, an RBI and two runs. Florida pitchers held Cardinals All-Star Carlos Beltran to a single in 13 at-bats.
Rookie Joe Kelly allowed an unearned run in six innings for the Cardinals.
Manager Mike Matheny's attempt to finesse the seventh with three relievers flopped when Mikael Cleto gave up a double and a walk with one out to the only batters he faced, and Kearns greeted Victor Marte with his third career pinch homer on a 2-0 fastball that landed an estimated 409 feet in the visitor's bullpen in left-center.
Furcal's RBI single in the fifth had put the Cardinals ahead 2-1. Skip Schumaker had an RBI single in the second, and Matt Holliday extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Florida starter Anibal Sanchez gave up two runs over six innings. He did not walk a batter for just the second time this season. He entered Sunday's start 2-6 with a 5.64 ERA over 10 starts, but he also was stingy against the Cardinals on June 27 at home when he allowed three runs in seven innings and got the win in a 5-3 victory.
Mike Dunn didn't allow a hit over 1 2/3 innings, and Steve Cishek struck out Holliday with a man on third to end the eighth. St. Louis hitters are 1 for 19 against Cishek, who worked 1 2/3 hitless innings Friday in a 3-2 victory.
The Marlins took the lead without a hit in the first, fueled by one-out walks to Ramirez and Carlos Lee. Ramirez stole second on the first pitch to Lee. The pair then pulled off a double steal as Logan Morrison struck out on a full count, Ramirez scoring without a play after Cruz, the catcher, threw wildly into left field.
Kelly struck out five and walked five but kept his pitch count manageable. He allowed just two hits and was helped by two double plays -- one that he started himself after snaring a liner by John Buck in the second. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist visited after 10 of Kelly's first 18 pitches were balls.
* Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman will work out with the team Thursday in Cincinnati and then leave for a rehab assignment. He's been out since arthroscopic knee surgery in late May. "I think everybody knows when you go this long, you need to see live pitching," Matheny said.
* Furcal got his first bases-loaded RBI since walking against Cardinals closer Jason Motte on July 16, 2010.