Familiar face burns Cardinals

Sunday, July 15, 2012
Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick rounds the bases after hitting a game-winning home run during the 10th inning Saturday in Cincinnati. (AL BEHRMAN ~ Associated Press)

CINCINNATI -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sat behind his desk with his head lowered, the index finger and thumb of his right hand supporting the bridge of his nose.

This one was painful to ponder.

Former Cardinals All-Star Ryan Ludwick fouled off three tough pitches to extend his at-bat, then homered in the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday to send the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-2 victory over St. Louis for their fifth straight win.

The Cardinals headed into the All-Star break with some momentum by winning four of five. Two close losses in Cincinnati stung a lot.

"They all do," Matheny said. "They all do."

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco tags out Cardinals baserunner Skip Schumaker at home plate during the seventh inning Saturday in Cincinnati. (AL BEHRMAN ~ Associated Press)

His body language said this one hurt more than most. The worst part for St. Louis was that the Cardinals had so many chances to avoid letting it come down to Ludwick's exceptional at-bat.

Ludwick got two strikes to start his plate appearance against Victor Marte (2-2), who was brought into the game to face him. He then fouled off three tough pitches, including a fastball that nearly got the best of him.

He took three pitches out of the strike zone to work the count full. Then he saw a slider and nailed it, sending a line drive to left field that barely cleared the wall for the Reds' third game-ending homer of the season.

It might have been no more than a double in any other ballpark. It was a game-ender at Great American.

Ludwick's 13th homer made a winner out of Sam LeCure (3-2), who pitched a perfect 10th inning. It was especially satisfying for Ludwick, a former Cardinals outfielder.

Cardinals pinch-hitter Lance Berkman reacts to striking out during the seventh inning Saturday in Cincinnati.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't," said Ludwick, who played for St. Louis from 2007 to 2010. "I have a lot of respect for them. I was with them a long time, and I would never want to show them up, but it feels good."

Yadier Molina homered for St. Louis, which stranded 11 runners and left the bases full in the eighth inning. The Cardinals have wasted a lot of chances while losing the first two games of the series.

"That's the game," Molina said. "We didn't take advantage when we got them on the line. We didn't get a base hit when we needed it."

Molina started the seventh inning with a drive to left against Mike Leake to make it 67 straight games at Great American with at least one homer. It's the longest such streak since Coors Field had 80 consecutive games with a homer in 2002 and 2003.

Molina was booed loudly as he rounded the bases, the same treatment he's gotten in each at-bat since his fight with second baseman Brandon Phillips in 2010.

The Cardinals tied it at 2-2 later in the seventh on Rafael Furcal's squeeze bunt. First baseman Joey Votto failed to come up with the ball for a play at the plate.

It came down to the bullpens, and Cincinnati's did the better job escaping threats. Left-hander Bill Bray got pinch-hitter Tyler Greene to foul out with the bases loaded in the eighth to keep it tied at 2-2.

"We had some opportunities, and we had some guys up there that come through in those situations more often," Matheny said. "We just couldn't get that big hit."

Left-hander Aroldis Chapman struck out three in the ninth. He threw 14 pitches -- all fastballs between 98 and 102 mph.

St. Louis activated Lance Berkman before the game and optioned outfielder Shane Robinson to Class AAA. Berkman missed 47 games after tearing cartilage in his right knee while stretching for a throw at first base May 19.

Berkman didn't start Saturday. He got a hug from pitcher Adam Wainwright when the videoboard showed the two of them in the dugout during a KissCam segment. Berkman pinch hit in the seventh and struck out swinging.

Jay Bruce led off the fourth with a double but was stranded when the Reds wasted their best chance against Kyle Lohse, who gave up two runs pver six innings. They loaded the bases with two outs, but Zack Cozart flied out. The Reds are batting only .235 with runners in scoring position, including .230 with the bases loaded.

Phillips singled with two outs in the fifth and scored on a hit-and-run double by Bruce into the right-field corner. Cozart's sacrifice fly made it 2-0 in the sixth.

St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games with a single in the sixth.

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