Ankiel, the former wild left-hander who resurrected his career as a power-hitting outfielder last year and now is Edmonds’ replacement, homered, singled twice and made a diving catch in an 8-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night. Manager Tony La Russa said Ankiel looks like a player with a half-dozen years of major league hitting experience.
“I just like the way he goes about it,” La Russa said. “It’s remarkable how proficient he is with so few big league at-bats.”
Todd Wellemeyer (1-0) struck out six in five strong innings, Ryan Ludwick had three hits and three RBIs and Rico Washington drove in an insurance run with his first career hit after nearly 4,000 minor league at-bats in a four-run eighth.
“I had to stay positive and keep going at it and hoping that this day would come true for me,” Washington said. “It finally happened and I’ve just got to thank the Cardinals and thank everybody that gave me this chance and believing in me that I can play here.
“It’s more beautiful when you win and you get the first hit, too.”
Brad Hawpe had a home run and RBI double for the defending NL champions Rockies, who were 2-1 winners in the opener Tuesday. Aaron Cook (0-1) gave up four runs and six hits in six innings, and left trailing 4-1.
“Overall, I felt pretty good with most of my locations,” Cook said. “It’s just the sinker wasn’t quite down the way it usually is. It’s just the bad ones I made that they capitalized on.”
Albert Pujols was 2-for-2 with three walks and an RBI for the Cardinals, whose string of 165 consecutive regular-season sellouts ended with announced attendance of 39,915 in 51-degree chill. That’s about 4,000 shy of capacity at Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006.
Ankiel homered in the fourth and singled twice, the three-hit game matching his career best. His diving catch robbed Willy Taveras to start the third, although he made a fielding error in the seventh when caught between hops on Taveras’ RBI single. Hawpe homered to lead off the fourth and his RBI double in the eighth cut the deficit to a 4-3.
The 29-year-old Washington, who toiled for 11 minor league seasons before infielder Brendan Ryan’s rib-cage injury gave him a chance to crack the roster, had a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth.
The Rockies had runners in scoring position the first three innings against Wellemeyer, and the right-hander finally hit his stride after giving up the homer to Hawpe. He struck out the next four hitters and retired five of the last six batters he faced.
“I hung a changeup and that’s what I get,” Wellemeyer said. “It was pretty average stuff, actually.”
Wellemeyer has made 12 career starts, all with the Cardinals after they claimed him off waivers from the Royals last May. He’s 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 14 appearances at home, including eight starts, but said he remains a work in progress.
“I don’t know about settling in,” Wellemeyer said. “I’ll never settle in when I’m in this game. If you do that, you’re done.”
Rockies reliever Luis Vizcaino allowed six straight batters to reach safely in the eighth, allowing all four runs and recording only one out.
Colorado’s Jayson Nix, who walked with the bases loaded for the go-ahead hit in the opener, singled in the ninth off Russ Springer for his first career hit. … Of Ankiel’s 14 career home runs, 11 have come at home. … The Rockies have stranded 19 runners the first two games and are 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position. “When opportunities come you need to take advantage, and if you don’t you pay the penalty,” manager Clint Hurdle said. … Ludwick is 12-for-24 in his last seven games at home. … The Rockies were 3-36 when scoring two or fewer runs last year but have won three of their last four after the 2-1 opening victory.