Ankiel’s first career grand slam lifts Cardinals to 8-5 win over Reds
ST. LOUIS (AP)—Maybe St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was right and not just hopeful when he predicted Rick Ankiel had a big future as a power-hitting outfielder. The first three weeks or so could not have gone any better.
Ankiel’s go-ahead grand slam added another chapter to the former phenom pitcher’s comeback story. His sixth-inning drive and Yadier Molina’s two-run homer powered St. Louis over the Cincinnati Reds 8-5 Friday night as La Russa passed Red Schoendienst to become the winningest manager in Cardinals history.
“That’s fairy-tale stuff,” La Russa said of Ankiel, batting .328 with five homers and 14 RBIs. “`Fantasy Island.”’
St. Louis again closed within two games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, winning for the 13th time in its last 17 home games.
Cardinals outfielder Juan Encarnacion was taken to a hospital for a CT scan after being struck on the left eye by a foul ball while waiting in the on-deck circle in the sixth inning. Encarnacion had been preparing to pinch hit when Aaron Miles fouled off an 0-1 pitch from Gary Majewski (0-2).
“I just made contact with it, and the next thing I know he hit the deck,” Miles said. “It’s one of those things that can happen and you go a long time without seeing something like that. I just hope and pray that his eye is OK and he’ll be able to do everything and continue his career.”
La Russa got his 1,042nd victory in 12 seasons with the Cardinals. He’s third on the career list with 2,362 overall, trailing only Connie Mack (3,776) and John McGraw (2,840).
Ankiel gave up on pitching in 2005 after prolonged bouts of wildness combined with injuries. He has hit five homers since being recalled by the Cardinals on Aug. 9.
St. Louis trailed 4-3 when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Eddie Guardado into the seats in right-center with one out in the sixth.
“I was so excited and it felt so good,” Ankiel said. “When I hit it I wasn’t sure if it was gone, but I knew it had a chance. Once I realized it was a home run, especially a grand slam to put us ahead, there’s no better feeling than that.”
And no worse feeling for Guardado, although even he could appreciate the occasion.
“Obviously you’ve got to tip your hat to the kid because this game is a mental game and it can crush you, and I think he knows that,” Guardado said. “He’s come a long way. He’s beat it.”
Randy Flores (2-0) allowed one hit and a walk in two innings, striking out two. The Cardinals’ bullpen gave up only two hits in eight scoreless innings.
St. Louis is 15-10 since La Russa began hitting the pitcher eighth on Aug. 4, and that slot was productive on Friday. Reliever Ryan Franklin singled in the seventh for his first hit and RBI of the year in only second his second at-bat. Starter Adam Wainwright singled as a pinch hitter in the fourth, and So Taguchi doubled as a pinch hitter in the sixth and scored on Ankiel’s homer.
St. Louis rallied after Anthony Reyes, pushed back due to ineffectiveness and starting for the first time in a week, managed only three outs. Brandon Phillips added an RBI triple and Adam Dunn had a run-scoring double in the first for a 3-0 lead.
Edwin Encarnacion led off the second with his first career inside-the-park homer, capitalizing when left fielder Chris Duncan crashed into the wall near the foul line while missing on a leaping attempt. It was the Reds’ first inside-the-park homer since Felipe Lopez on May 6 last year at Arizona, and the first at new Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006. The last opponent to do it against the Cardinals was Ken Griffey Jr. who hit a game-winning homer off Andy Benes on Aug. 20, 2001.
Griffey hit his first triple since June 24, 2003, at old Busch Stadium. … Guardado has allowed 11 runs and 14 hits in 6 2-3 innings since returning from the DL on Aug. 7. … The Cardinals have hit three grand slams this season.