Phillies 5, Cardinals 4

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Jose Mesa proved he should be the Philadelphia Phillies closer.

Mesa got his first save since July 30, and Jim Thome and Mike Lieberthal hit back-to-back homers to spark a four-run sixth inning as the Phillies won their fourth straight on Saturday, 5-4 over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to 30 games with a seventh-inning single, the longest by a St. Louis Cardinals player since Stan Musial hit in 30 straight in 1950. Pujols finished 1-for-2 with three walks.

Jim Edmonds tripled off the head of center fielder Marlon Byrd in the third inning and former Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen homered for the Cardinals, who have lost three of four.

Mesa worked the ninth innings for his 22nd save in 25 opportunities—his first since manager Larry Bowa replaced him as the closer on Aug. 3.

Bowa took the closer role away from Mesa while he worked on his mechanics with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan over the last 10 days.

“(His mechanics) were still a little bit slow out there, but he definitely earned the save,” Bowa said. “That’s a very good hitting team and he didn’t face the 7-8-9 hitters. He got the heart of the order and got the job done.”

After Pujols walked to start the ninth, Mesa got Tino Martinez to pop out to first base before striking out Rolen and Bo Hart to end the game.

Although Mesa wouldn’t talk to the media after the game, he had plenty of supporters.

“(Mesa’s) got the best stuff of anybody in the bullpen, he’s our best guy out there,” said Dan Plesac, who earned a save on Friday night. “Batters go into slumps. Hitters go into slumps. It just gets magnified when things go wrong in the ninth inning. There’s no lifeguard out there when you’re a closer.”

Thome, who was also a teammate of Mesa’s in Cleveland, added: “He has been one of the best closers in the game. We believe in him. We want him out there.”

After Lieberthal hit an RBI single in the first, the Phillies couldn’t put together anything against rookie Danny Haren (3-4), who retired 13 straight before the sixth inning.

“(Haren) was making really good pitches but we were able to make some adjustments as the game went along,” Thome said.

Byrd led off the sixth with a double and moved to third on Placido Polanco’s sacrifice. Bobby Abreu doubled off the left-field wall to score Byrd and cut the deficit to 3-2.

Thome followed with a two-run homer to right-center—his 32nd of the year, then Lieberthal hit his seventh home run to left for a 5-3 lead.

“(Haren) was pitching one of the best games since he’s been here and, all of sudden, boom, boom,” Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said.

Brett Myers (12-7) allowed four runs on six hits over 6 1-3 innings. He walked five and struck out six.

St. Louis chased Myers in the seventh when Edmonds walked and Pujols singled. Plesac relieved and struck out Martinez.

Reliever Mike Williams hit Rolen to load the bases and walked Orlando Palmeiro to pull the Cardinals within 5-4. Williams got out of the jam when second baseman Chase Utley made a nice play up the middle and got a force at second for the final out.

Rolen was booed loudly by Philadelphia fans for the second night in a row. Once a fan favorite, Phillies fans turned on Rolen when he rejected a lucrative contract extension from Philadelphia in 2001 and forced a trade last year.

Rolen gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the fourth with his 24th homer of the season. The solo shot hit off the facing of the upper deck in left field.

Edgar Renteria doubled home Rolen in the fifth, stretching the lead to 3-1. The Phillies prevented further damage in the inning when shortstop Jimmy Rollins threw out Renteria at the plate trying to score on a grounder by Mike Matheny.

St. Louis tied it 1-all in the third on Edmonds’ odd triple.

Byrd appeared to have a shot at making the catch at the fence but when he leaped the ball completely missed his glove and caromed off his head.

Edmonds jogged to first base before picking up the pace after the ball caromed away from Byrd.

Haren gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings. He walked one andstruck out five.


Pujols became the 38th player in history with a 30-game hitting streak. … Thome has four homers in his last five games. … Plesac appeared in his 1,050th career game, tying him with Kent Tekulve for fourth place on the all-time list. … Rolen is hitting .423 (11-for-26) against Philadelphia in his career. … The Phillies have hit four back-to-back home runs this season. … Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell changed the Vet Coundown number. There are17 regular-season games left at Veterans Stadium.

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