ST. LOUIS (AP) Rick Ankiel summed up his second start of the
season in four words: "I've had better days."
The wild young pitcher was neither great nor awful Saturday. He
walked five and struck out six in five innings as the St. Louis
Cardinals lost 7-4 to the Houston Astros, who got a pair of home
runs from Chris Truby.
"It was the good, the bad and the ugly," pitching coach Dave
Duncan said. "There was some good, there was some bad, there was
some ugly. I think there's some positive to take out of it."
Ankiel (1-1) faced his second straight staff ace after beating
Randy Johnson in his season debut last Sunday, and was pitching for
the first time at Busch Stadium since he threw five wild pitches in
one inning the most since 1890 in the NL division series last
Scott Elarton (2-1) overcame early trouble, retiring 17 of 18
batters after allowing back-to-back home runs to Jim Edmonds and
Bobby Bonilla with two outs in the first. He didn't allow another
hit until rookie Albert Pujols hit his fourth homer leading off the
Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
Truby, who walked with the bases loaded in the seventh, drove in
three runs for the Astros.
The Cardinals took fewer precautions than in Ankiel's first
start, when he warmed up underneath the stands and out of view.
After huddling with Duncan and catcher Mike Matheny, he got ready
in the bullpen like other starters.
Ankiel, who didn't speak to the media after his first start,
also held a postgame news conference. But he didn't allow the
questions to stray from the game-related.
"When I'm out there and what I'm doing, that's for you guys,"
Ankiel said. "But what I think is for me."
Ankiel, who lost for the first time since last Aug. 1, worked
out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first by striking out the side.
He walked three straight in the second, throwing a wild pitch to
the screen during a five-pitch walk to No. 8 hitter Glen Barker,
then hit Elarton in the foot with a curve to force in a run.
Truby has nine hits this season, including six home runs, and is
batting .232. He hit a pair of fastballs from Ankiel, connecting
with the bases empty in the third to tie it and a two-run shot in
"It'd be amazing to have a guy lead the league in home runs and
RBI and hit less than .200," manager Larry Dierker said. "He's
pulling a (Dave) Kingman on us."
Truby isn't proud of his strange early statistics.
"It's just been nice to hit a couple of homers in some big
situations for us," he said. "I've got to work on hitting a
couple of singles with guys on base, but right now I'll take it."
As Ankiel walked off the field at the end of his 99-pitch
outing, he slammed his glove into the back wall of the dugout. He
had won five straight decisions in 11 starts.
"I went out there and I battled," Ankiel said. "I don't know
if you can call that progress or not. It wasn't a day I wanted to
The Astros were sympathetic of Ankiel's plight.
"I think the media has made too much out of it," Wagner said.
"The kid is 21 years old. That kid is going to be fine. When I was
21, I was horrible."
The Astros added two more runs on no hits in the seventh due to
the wildness of rookie reliever Chad Hutchinson, who walked three
batters and hit the only other he faced. He was pitching for only
the second time this season, and first time in 10 days, and manager
Tony La Russa took the blame.
"That's the worst thing for a young pitcher, to sit around as
long as he did," La Russa said.
Elarton had no strikeouts through three innings, then fanned
five in a row beginning with the heart of the St. Louis order in
the fourth. He left after Pujols' homer because of a mild right
hamstring strain, finishing with six strikeouts and one walk. J.D.
Drew greeted reliever Wayne Franklin with his third homer for the
Cardinals' final run.
Elarton also got hit by a pitch in the seventh by Mike Timlin to
load the bases.
Lance Berkman added an RBI double in the eighth for the Astros,
who have won four of five.
The Cardinals have lost three in a row, and have scored only 16
runs the first five games of the homestand.
|Rick Ankiel sits alone in the dugout after giving up five walks in five innings against the Astros.|
Mark McGwire, who didn't start to rest his surgically
repaired right knee, grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
He's expected to play Sunday in the series finale. ... In three
games against Houston last year, Ankiel had 24 strikeouts and eight
walks and was 2-0. ... Edmonds has eight RBI in only 22 at-bats.
... Truby has two career multihomer games, also getting two last
Aug. 4 against the Expos. ... Pujols, a rookie, is 14-for-29 during
an eight-game hitting streak.
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NY Yankees 3
Kansas City 4
Tampa Bay 5
Chi. White Sox 4
NY Mets 0
St. Louis 4
Chicago Cubs 7
San Francisco 6
San Diego 5
Los Angeles 4