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Colby Rasmus

Colby Rasmus

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Cardinals rookie Colby Rasmus turned an unlikely second chance into a game-ending home run that made someone else the hero.

After his at-bat had been spared by a dropped fly ball in foul territory, Rasmus launched a full-count pitch from San Francisco reliever Bob Howry to deep right-center field for a 2-1 victory against the Giants on Wednesday.

Rasmus' first career game-ender — and the first by a Cardinals rookie since three years before he was born — kept the Cardinals from wasting Adam Wainwright's finest start of the season.

The righthander pitched most of the game with a one-run lead, defused the Giants' decisive inning and kept a frazzled lineup in a game it almost cost him.

"What Adam did was heroic," manager Tony La Russa said.

"He had everything working.

That club over there is going as good as anyone, and he shut them down.

...

That game just had to get away from us — and he brought us back." MORE CARDINALS CARDINAL BEAT: Daily blog of news and notes from spring training BIRD LAND: Derrick Goold's baseball blog SOUND OFF: Cards Talk forum CHATS: Joe Strauss Live P-D PHOTOS: Cardinals galleries P-D VIDEOS: See all the spring training videos P-D STORIES: Last 14 days of Cards coverage Wainwright pitched a season-high nine innings and struck out a career-best 12.

He did not factor into the decision, but only because he escaped a bases-loaded jam to avoid the loss and the Cardinals botched a bases-loaded opportunity to miss giving him the win.

The righthander became the first Cardinals starter to strike out a dozen batters when he whiffed the final three Giants he faced in the game, sending a 1-1 tie into the 10th inning.

Closer Ryan Franklin (2-0) worked a scoreless 10th to set up Rasmus for the winner.

Credit Pablo Sandoval and Albert Pujols with assists.

The rookie fouled off three pitches in his at-bat to lead off the 10th inning, including a pop-up that parachuted down near the Giants' dugout.

Sandoval dropped it for the error, and on the ninth pitch of the at-bat Rasmus hit his eighth home run of the season.

Pujols, two for two with two intentional walks in the game, loomed on deck.

"He got to 3-2 and he saw the guy on deck," La Russa said.

"You've got to throw a strike." Howry (0-4) nearly did with a 2-2 pitch to Rasmus.

The rookie said he wanted to keep himself from swinging at another of Howry's split-finger fastballs, so he took the low pitch.

Rasmus acknowledged that he would have been willing to accept the strikeout on the "close" pitch that became ball 3.

"You pop up on the infield, you think you're going to be out," said Rasmus, the first Cardinals rookie since Andy Van Slyke in 1983 to win a game with a homer on its final swing.

"I was trying to get something I could do some damage." Just as Rasmus was willing to accept his fate on the close call, Wainwright was ready to risk his game on a curveball in the dirt in the eighth.

The righthander, who has fought with the angle of his arm all season, had the best command of his fastball this season.

He was able to get ahead of hitters with it and then tie them up with his curveball or another offspeed pitch.

The Cardinals scratched out a run on Giants starter Matt Cain in the first inning on Ryan Ludwick's RBI single.

And that was all the cushion Wainwright had.

He preserved it for seven superb innings before the first three batters of the eighth reached base.

Up came Sandoval, one of the National League's leading hitters with a .332 average.

Wainwright worked the count full, and Yadier Molina called the familiar pitch.

Wainwright's curve.

"It's his best pitch," Molina said.

The righthander spiked it in the dirt, and Sandoval waved over it.

Wainwright risked the bases-loaded walk to tie the game to get the strikeout that probably changed the game.

"I've never thrown a curveball that I didn't think (Yadi) wouldn't block," Wainwright said.

"Let's just throw the best curveball you've got and take your chances.

We're up by one and we need a strikeout there." The next batter, Molina's older brother Bengie, tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

But another strikeout with a curveball ended the inning.

Joe Thurston struck out with the bases loaded in the Cardinals' eighth to end their best chance to get Wainwright the win before he pitched them into extra innings.

Cain entered this series with the second-best ERA (2.57) in the National League, and only teammate Tim Lincecum's shutout Monday dropped him to third by Wednesday.

An error greased the Cardinals for their first-inning run, and Cain offered nothing after it.

La Russa said Cain was beguiling, but his hitters were frustrated.

They fished outside of the strike zone, they were loose in their approach and they were "forcing" to make something happened.

Rasmus' winner, he said, may help break the tension.

"When you're not winning it's hard to win games," La Russa said.

"Guys are pressing so much.

Maybe we need a pool party.

Bring some iced tea.

Bring in a comedian to make them laugh.

Man, they're pressing.

...

Overall, our offense is pressing."

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/cardinals/story/2B28A2D169A59643862575E70013F32F?OpenDocument
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