Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Boost from Benes Helps Cards Roll by Pirates in Series Opener

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Boost from Benes Helps Cards Roll by Pirates in Series Opener

Article excerpt

The last time Andy Benes had pitched at Three Rivers Stadium, the Cardinals were clinching first place in the National League Central Division.

That was last year.

First place was at stake Wednesday night, too, but this time it was the Pittsburgh Pirates who had the lead in baseball's worst division. But that was before Benes bounced them out of it with a 10-0 victory. The Pirates fell to 28-29, a half-game behind the Houston Astros in the NL Central. The Cardinals, almost miraculously, are only two games off the pace at 26-30. "In a lot of other divisions, we'd be way far behind," Benes said. Benes, who had a whopping 5.42 career earned-run average against the Pirates - his worst against any opponent - gave up five hits, walked four and hit one in six innings. But he fanned 11 and stranded seven runners in scoring position. He ended four of his six innings with a strikeout. "To leave this game with six zeroes is bordering on the miraculous," Benes said. But manager Tony La Russa said, "Every time he had to make a pitch, he made it." He even managed to stay in the game after hitting Joe Randa with a pitch in the second inning, shortly after Pirates starter Jason Schmidt had been ejected for plunking Cards catcher Mike Difelice. Ray Lankford crashed a two-run, opposite-field homer in the first inning and singled in a run in the eighth. "That's my strength," Lankford said. "Hitting the ball the opposite way." Lankford, a late starter after offseason rotator cuff surgery, has 11 homers and 40 runs batted in despite playing in only 37 games. Dmitri Young, who had been hitting .167 with men in scoring position, had a career-high four hits and knocked in a career-high four runs although he never hit the ball hard. He blooped a double with the bases loaded in a four-run fifth and bounced a single through a drawn-in infield to score two runs in the seventh. "I placed the ball where the players ain't," he said. "Some old guy, who's now dead, said that. And it's the truth." The Cardinals have scored 78 runs in their last 11 games and 32 in their last three. Schmidt, who has given up 25 earned runs in 24 innings at home this season, was gone before the end of the second inning. …

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