Stephenson's return adds a boost, keeps Cubs ailing

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Garrett Stephenson gave the St. Louis Cardinals' ailing rotation a boost, and more help is on the way.

Stephenson, pitching for the first time since April 14, threw four solid innings, helping extend the Chicago Cubs' losing streak to six with an 11-2 victory Tuesday.

"I felt I could compete and I did that," Stephenson said. "I accomplished my goal."

Stephenson, who had been sidelined with a lower back strain, struck out five with an assortment of offspeed deliveries and walked three, allowing a run on five hits. Manager Tony La Russa took him out after 73 pitches.

"As soon as he started to fatigue, we were going to pull him," La Russa said. "This isn't the last time we'll be careful with him."

Another Cardinals starter, Woody Williams, is to be activated from the disabled list Wednesday to start the series finale for St. Louis (19-20), which has won five of six to move within one game of .500 for the first time since May 1.

"It's something I've been looking forward to a long time," Williams said. "Win or lose, it's going to be nice to get back out there."

Jim Edmonds matched his career high with four hits, doubling twice and driving in three runs as St. Louis set a season high for runs and matched its best with 17 hits.

J.D. Drew homered and had three hits and scored twice, and Fernando Vina was 3-for-5 with a bunt single for an RBI and three runs scored.

Mike Timlin (1-2) allowed one hit in three innings as four pitchers combined on a six-hitter. Matt Morris pitched a four-hit shutout in the series opener.

The Cubs got the game's first run when Bobby Hill doubled and scored on Bill Mueller's single in the first. Sammy Sosa, 1-for-7 with four strikeouts the first two games of the series, added a sacrifice fly off Dave Veres in the eighth.

The Cubs have been outscored 45-18 during the slump and are a season-worst 11 games below .500 at 13-24. After the game, manager Don Baylor held a closed-door meeting that lasted about 15 minutes.

"I had a lot of things to say and I wanted to direct it to the guys in this clubhouse," Baylor said. "It's how we play, that's what I'm shocked by. One run here, two runs there, four hits, five hits, it's just got to stop."

Rookie Juan Cruz (0-7) gave up four runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings, losing to St. Louis for the second time in six days. He's the first Cubs starter to begin the season with seven losses since Mike Morgan in 1994 and is winless in 10 starts since beating Pittsburgh last Sept. 26. No Cubs starter since 1900 has started a season 0-8.

"I want to help my team, so I've got to get my first win," Cruz said. "It looks like it's impossible for me."

St. Louis tied it in the first on a bases-loaded groundout by Tino Martinez, and took the lead with a three-run fourth. Vina's safety squeeze bunt put the Cardinals ahead, with Kerry Robinson sliding in just ahead of catcher Robert Machado's tag after a barehand play and flip to the plate by third baseman Mueller. A passed ball by Machado allowed a second run to score in the inning and Edmonds' single made it 4-1.

Drew hit his sixth homer off Ron Mahay in the sixth and Albert Pujols and Edmonds followed with doubles for a 6-1 lead.

St. Louis added five in the eighth off Scott Chiasson with Albert Pujols, Edmonds, Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria and pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo getting an RBI apiece.

Noteworthy

The Cardinals optioned RHP Travis Smith to Triple-A Memphis. Smith was 1-0 with an 8.06 ERA in six games, four of them starts. ... The Cubs have been outhomered 10-1 the last five games. ... Cruz lasted four innings against the Cardinals on May 8 in Chicago, allowing two runs, three hits and six walks. ... The Cardinals also had 17 hits on April 26 at Montreal, a 7-6, 11-inning victory. ... The Cardinals will option LHP pitcher Bud Smith to Triple-A Memphis to make room for Williams on the roster. A team spokesman said Smith, who no-hit the Padres last September as a rookie but is 0-3 with a 9.68 ERA this year, will make at least two starts at Memphis.

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