Cardinals 4, Padres 2

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SAN DIEGO (AP)—Rick Ankiel’s return to the major leagues after more than three years away couldn’t have gone much better.

The left-hander, whose once-promising career was derailed by wild pitches and elbow surgery, allowed one hit in a scoreless inning of relief in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.

Ankiel received a rousing reception in the dugout after the sixth inning, getting high-fives and slaps on the back from his teammates.

“It’s just such a relief to get out there and finally get back in the mix again,” Ankiel said. “The welcome was great, and I’m happy to be back.”

Pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno had a go-ahead, two-run double in the sixth and the Cardinals won for the 10th time in 11 games. Jeff Suppan (15-6) won his sixth straight start and improved to 9-0 on the road.

Manager Tony La Russa called Ankiel’s appearance “a very special inning.”

“We’ve been waiting to see him, we saw him, he thrilled us all and he was very good,” La Russa said. “He was at the top of the highlight list for us, and there were a lot of them.”

Ankiel started the bottom of the sixth by allowing a single to Xavier Nady, then retired the side. It was Ankiel’s first big league appearance since May 10, 2001.

Ankiel is best known for throwing nine wild pitches and walking 11 in four innings in the 2000 playoffs. He was demoted to the minors in May 2001, and missed the entire 2002 season with a sprained elbow. He had reconstructive elbow surgery last year.

“No matter how many games you throw in the minors, there’s nothing like being back out on the main stage,” Ankiel said. “It just feels good.”

He threw 14 pitches, 11 for strikes.

“I think my curveball could have been a little sharper, but I was there,” Ankiel said. “That’s the main thing, and it’s only going to get better from here.”

Suppan, who met Ankiel for the first time during spring training, was happy for his teammate.

“He’s been working hard for a long time and everybody was very excited when he came out,” Suppan said. “He even had some of the fans cheering for him.”

The Padres, trying for their first postseason appearance since 1998, stumbled again, losing for the sixth time in eight games. They remained 2 1/2 games behind Chicago in the NL wild-card race. The Cardinals, baseball’s best team, swept the Padres last week at St. Louis, outscoring them 20-7.

“We’re playing a heck of a team over there,” Padres slugger Phil Nevin said. “After playing them five times, there’s no question, in my mind, who the best team around is.”

The Cardinals returned to form a night after having their nine-game winning streak snapped.

Edgar Renteria and John Mabry singled off Jake Peavy (11-5) to open the sixth, and scored when Cedeno, pinch-hitting for Suppan, doubled to the right-field wall.

Peavy said he left a cut fastball in too good of a location for Cedeno.

“Against good ballclubs, you have to play flawless baseball,” Peavy said. “That’s something we didn’t do as a team.”

Suppan allowed two runs and five hits in five innings, walked five and struck out three. Jason Isringhausen pitched the ninth for his 40th save, tying Florida’s Armando Benitez for the NL lead.

The Padres took a 2-1 lead with two outs in the fourth when Suppan walked Sean Burroughs on four straight pitches with the bases loaded.

St. Louis tied it with an unearned run in the fifth. Tony Womack reached on a leadoff single, took second on Peavy’s errant pickoff throw and scored on Albert Pujols’ bloop double just inside the right-field line.

Phil Nevin homered leading off the second for the Padres, his 22nd. St. Louis tied it on Edgar Renteria’s RBI single in the fourth.

Peavy struck out eight in 5 1-3 innings. He allowed four runs—three earned — and eight hits and walked three.


The Cardinals won the season series against the Padres for the sixth straight season. … Padres 2B Mark Loretta, who bruised a knuckle on his right ring finger Saturday night, said he could return either Wednesday against the Cardinals or Thursday at Colorado. He swung a bat and played catch Tuesday, saying it was difficult to make throws.

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