Outfield miscue sends Reds to win, closer to NL Central lead

Sunday, June 30, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Left fielder Albert Pujols dropped a routine fly ball in the seventh inning and allowed the Cincinnati Reds to score the go-ahead run in a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals on Saturday night, cutting St. Louis' lead in the NL Central to one game.

Todd Walker lofted a pop-up to medium left with two outs in the seventh, and the ball glanced off the glove of Pujols, who had been camped under it for several seconds. Pujols looked at his glove as if it had betrayed him before retrieving the ball as Jason LaRue scored from second for a 3-2 lead.

The error was Pujols' second in 41 starts in left field.

Pinch-hitter Barry Larkin's sacrifice fly off Mike Matthews had tied it, and Aaron Boone gave the Reds a two-run lead with an RBI single, also off Matthews. Luther Hackman (1-3) gave up a single to LaRue, the only batter he faced.

Juan Encarnacion hit his second homer in as many games and 16th of the season for the Reds, who have won four of five. Encarnacion was 3-for-4 and is 16-for-34 (.471) the last 10 games.

Elmer Dessens (5-4) allowed two runs on six hits in six innings, winning for the first time in five starts since June 2. In three starts against the Cardinals, he's 1-0 with a 3.70 ERA.

Jim Edmonds and Eli Marrero homered for the Cardinals, who went 41 innings without a long ball before Marrero connected in the fifth. Edmonds also robbed the Reds of a run with a diving catch of Walker's sinking liner to center in the fifth, easily doubling LaRue off second.

Edmonds, who entered the 5-for-29 with one RBI since coming off the disabled list from a sprained right wrist, was 2-for-3 with a bunt single in the first. He hit his 14th homer with one out in the sixth, snapping a 1-1 tie.

Marrero hit his seventh homer, setting a career high, leading off the fifth to give the Cardinals the lead. Encarnacion tied it with two outs in the sixth with his 16th homer, and second in as many games.

Travis Smith, a 29-year-old rookie recalled from Triple-A Memphis on Thursday, faced the Reds for the second straight time. He was optioned to the minors on May 13, a day after giving up eight runs in 1 1-3 innings at Cincinnati, and threw a complete-game five-hitter in his last start at Memphis.

Smith allowed two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits in 6 1-3 innings with two strikeouts and no walks.

Marrero made a running catch in right field of Austin Kearns' drive to start the seventh and Russell Branyan chased Smith with a drive off the top of the center-field wall. But Branyan was held to a single because he was in a home-run trot.

Danny Graves worked the ninth for his 24th save in 29 chances.

Notes: Cardinals RHP Andy Benes worked five innings, his longest of three rehab starts, Friday night for Triple-A Memphis. Benes, who's trying to recuperate from an arthritic right knee, gave up one run on four hits and has a 2.45 ERA. ... Adam Dunn had a single in four at-bats, giving him nine hits in his last 18 trips with three doubles and two RBIs in that span. ... Pujols doubled in three at-bats and is 16-for-39 (.410) against the Reds with three homers and six RBIs.

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