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Saturday, Apr. 14 2:10pm ET
Mixed reviews on Ankiel; Truby goes deep twice

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Rick Ankiel summed up his second start of the season in four words: "I've had better days."

Rick Ankiel
Rick Ankiel sits alone in the dugout after giving up five walks in five innings against the Astros.

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 fall.

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 eighth.

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 the fifth.

"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 have."

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.

Game notes
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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