Ludwick homers again, Cards beat Dodgers

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Ryan Ludwick said he simply followed Albert Pujols’ lead.

Ludwick tied a franchise record with a homer in his fifth straight game, only four pitches after Pujols’ grand slam, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 on Wednesday.

“The best part about it is we’re winning,” Ludwick said. “I felt like I had the best seat in the house, following Albert. The guy can flat-out hit.”

Pujols’ sixth career grand slam and Ludwick’s drive during a five-run fourth chased Derek Lowe, who gave up eight runs and 13 hits in only 3 1-3 innings. Ludwick was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and Pujols finished 4-for4 with a walk, while insisting being on the same field as Manny Ramirez served as motivation.

“You can have nine Manny Ramirezes out there and I’m still going to go and play my game,” Pujols said. “I don’t have to impress Manny Ramirez or 45,000 people. y job is to play hard and help my team to win.”

Ramirez hit his 513th homer run in the second inning to break a tie with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 20th place on the career list. Ramirez added an RBI single in the third to give the Dodgers an early 3-1 lead, and is batting .600 (12-for-20) with three homers and six RBIs in five games since joining the Dodgers.

Fans booed him before every at-bat, and rode him when he took his time getting back into the box after running out a foul grounder in the sixth.

Joel Pineiro (4-5) needed only 78 pitches to get through seven innings for his first victory in five starts and only his second in 15 appearances since April 29. Pineiro’s strong effort bailed out a beleaguered bullpen that blew its major league-leading 27th save on Tuesday, although he unsuccessfully lobbied manager Tony La Russa for another inning.

“I told Tony, ‘I’m good to go back out there,”’ Pineiro said. “But the decision he made, that’s why he’s the captain.”

In his first year as a full-time starter at age 30, Ludwick is the fifth Cardinals player to homer in five straight games and the first since Pujols from Aug. 17-22, 2007. He has totaled six homers during the streak, including a game-winning two-run shot in the 11th inning off Jason Johnson on Tuesday, and is batting .486 (18-for-37) during a nine-game hitting streak.

The runs allowed were one shy of Lowe’s career-worst and the hits matched his career-worst, done twice previously. He also threw a pair of wild pitches— both times with Ludwick at the plate—after allowing only two earned runs in 14 1-3 innings his previous two outings.

“Nothing worked all night long,” Lowe said. “What else can you say? You can’t continually throw flat sinkers out over the plate and expect to get guys out.

“I did it on a regular basis and paid the price. I put the team in a huge hole.”

Lowe (8-10) pitched the clinching Game 4 in the 2004 World Series for the Red Sox with seven shutout innings, but in the regular season he’s 1-6 with a 6.69 ERA against the Cardinals and 0-3 with an 8.80 ERA in three starts at 3-year-old Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals, who had lost six of seven at home entering the series, have won 10 of the last 11 over the Dodgers at home. Los Angeles is 1-7 at new Busch Stadium.

The Dodgers finished the game under protest after manager Joe Torre burned pinch hitter Mark Sweeney, replacing him with Jeff Kent during a two-run eighth. Sweeney had stepped into the batter’s box, so he had to come out, and Torre and La Russa took turns discussing the situation with the umpires while the game was delayed for several minutes.

La Russa did change pitchers after the game resumed, and rookie Chris Perez caught Kent on a called third strike and Angel Berroa on an infield pop-up to end the inning.

Perez also worked the ninth for his first career save in two chances, although La Russa wasn’t ready to anoint him the successor to struggling Jason Isringhausen.

“I don’t think Chris needs to hear he’s the next Bruce Sutter yet,” La Russa said. “Like I say, under the radar screen for a while.”


Rick Ankiel missed his 10th straight start with an abdominal strain and manager Tony La Russa doesn’t when he’ll be ready. “He ran at 75 percent and that’s still 25 percent to get well, so I don’t know if he’s going to be ready by Friday, either,” the manager said. … Other Cardinals to homer in five straight games are Jim Edmonds (2004), Rip Collins (1935) and Jim Bottomley (1929). … Mark McGwire homered in six straight games for the Cardinals, but over two seasons in 1997 and 1998, connecting in the first four games during his then-record 70-homer season in ’98.

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