Cardinals 2, Cubs 1

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CHICAGO (AP)—Lou Piniella has been around long enough to see just about everything in baseball, but his first managerial look Friday at Cubs-Cardinals— one of the game’s longest and most intense rivalries—is one he’ll remember for a while.

Braden Looper allowed five hits in seven innings for the Cardinals, Preston Wilson hit a long homer and St. Louis ended a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory that featured a pair of bizarre plays.

“Both plays they got right,” Piniella said after another tough loss, even though he could be heard exchanging loud “pleasantries” with the umpires in the runway after the game.

“You know they try to do their jobs and I try to do mine. We were just exchanging pleasantries in the runway,” Piniella said. “They told me where their dinner reservations were and I told them where mine were. That’s the end of it.”

St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen got his fourth save in the ninth. He was helped when pinch-runner Ronny Cedeno was called out at second, just after teammate Jacque Jones drew ball four on a 3-2 pitch.

Cedeno was running and when Cards catcher Yadier Molina threw to second, Cedeno overslid the bag and shortstop David Eckstein tagged him for what turned into the second out of the inning.

Eckstein and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa both argued Cedeno should be out, and after conferring, the umpires agreed. Matt Murton then popped out to end the game.

“I said ‘Hey, he went past the base,”’ Eckstein said. “They talked it over and just made sure they got the right call. Once you touch the base and you come off, no matter what the situation is, he’s live as a runner.”

Crew chief Larry Young said the umpires met to make sure they got it right.

“Call there was ball four, the runner is entitled to second base but that’s it. He overslid the base and was tagged out,” Young said. “We got together on it, yeah.”

As far as an exchange with Piniella after the game, Young said that was no big deal.

“Always nice talking to Lou,” Young said. “Well, we’ve done that before. I’ve known Lou 25 years, so we’ve done it before.”

Reliever-turned-starter Looper (3-1) gave up a first-inning run but settled down in a duel with Ted Lilly. The Cubs scored in the first on singles by Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

Lilly (1-2) shut the defending World Series champs out on three hits for 6 1-3 innings. But after he walked Jim Edmonds with one out in the seventh, Wilson followed with his first homer, a line drive that cleared the left-field bleachers for a 2-1 lead. Lilly gave up four hits and two runs in seven innings.

There was another unusual play in the seventh inning.

The Cubs had two on and no outs when Henry Blanco popped up a bunt in front of the plate. Molina reached around Blanco to try and make the catch; as he did, the ball hit the ground.

Molina apparently tagged Blanco and threw to second base with Eckstein covering. Eckstein threw to third where Scott Rolen tagged Mark DeRosa. Rolen relayed the ball to first, and the umpires initially ruled the Cardinals had turned a triple play.

That brought Piniella out of the dugout to argue. After the umpires conferred, Blanco was ruled out for batter’s interference, and Chicago’s two runners, DeRosa and Jones, were sent back to their bases.

“He started toward first base and then he backed up and hit the catcher. That’s interference,” Young said. “The ball’s dead. Whatever happened after that with the Keystone Cops type of thing was irrelevant.”

La Russa, a friend of Piniella’s, didn’t see the two plays as anything out of the ordinary.

“I don’t think its bizarre at all,” he said. “It’s part of baseball. I think you have to applaud the umpires. They got together and got both plays right.”

Looper struck out Cesar Izturis and pinch-hitter Daryle Ward to end the inning.

Notes

Rolen returned to the St. Louis lineup after missing the previous two games with food poisoning. … Ramirez has hit in all 12 Cubs games he’s played this season and has an 18-game hitting streak extending back to last season. … After the Cubs scored in the first, the inning ended with a strange double play. Rolen grabbed DeRosa’s grounder and threw to second for the force, but DeRosa initially was ruled safe at first when Albert Pujols missed the tag after an off-line throw from Adam Kennedy. As Pujols ran toward first base umpire Angel Hernandez to argue, he tagged DeRosa, who apparently had missed the bag as he ran by. This time DeRosa was called out.

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