DENVER (AP) -- The ball drifted down the line in left and David Eckstein had a beat on it from the moment of contact.
Though the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop seemingly had no chance
at getting there in time, he never stopped and made a last-gasp
dive into foul territory.
Somehow, someway he came up with the ball.
"That play in foul territory has to be the second-greatest play
by a shortstop in Cardinals history," Cardinals manager Tony La
Russa said. "That was an Ozzie Smith-type play."
Eckstein's amazing catch and another spectacular grab to start
an inning-ending double play in the fifth helped Matt Morris stay
unbeaten despite six shaky innings, lifting the Cardinals to an 8-6
victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.
Morris (6-0) didn't have his best stuff, which isn't a surprise
because he's always had trouble at Colorado's Coors Field. He came
away with his first win at the hitter-friendly park this time
because of Eckstein's superb fielding.
Eckstein's double play in the fifth inning was a thing of
beauty. Diving up the middle, he snared Garrett Atkins' chopper and
flipped the ball backhanded to second baseman Mark Grudzielanek,
who barehanded the relay just in time.
Normally, it would have been the kind of play that would be
shown over and over again on the late-night highlights. His play in
the third inning made that one look routine.
With the game tied at 2, Colorado's Brad Hawpe sent a looping
fly toward the stands in left. Eckstein, left fielder Reggie
Sanders and third baseman Scott Seabol all chased after the ball,
but it looked as if no one was going to get there.
Then, at just the last second, Eckstein made a diving stab, hit
the dirt and got up with the ball in his hand, sending a buzz
across the stadium. It was the kind of play that took La Russa back
to 1986, when Smith made a diving catch with his back to the plate
on a blooper by Von Hayes.
"When it goes up, you feel like you're going to get there,"
Eckstein said. "You're just going to go as hard as you can and
fortunately I got there."
It's a good thing the way the ball was flying around.
After some of the Mile High air had been taken out of Coors
Field -- an average of 5.3 runs the previous four games -- the
Cardinals and Rockies came out swinging. Each team had five runs by
the sixth inning and they combined for 29 hits after playing in the
third-lowest scoring game in Coors history the night before.
St. Louis got 17 hits, with Grudzielanek finishing 4-for-5 and
Seabol 3-for-3 with two RBI.
The Rockies tried to stay with the Cardinals, finishing with 12
hits, but couldn't overcome another rough outing from starter Joe
Kennedy and more bullpen problems. Clint Barmes tied a team record
with three doubles and had two RBI, and Desi Relaford was 3-for-5
with two RBI for Colorado, which has lost eight of 11.
"Our hitting wasn't very good after we scored four runs,"
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "The game was there to win and
St. Louis broke a 6-all tie in the seventh inning after loading
the bases against Blaine Neal (0-1). Pinch-hitter Larry Walker
knocked in one run on a groundout and the other came in on a wild
pitch by Byung-Hyun Kim.
Jason Isringhausen pitched the ninth for his 16th save this
season and 21st straight overall. His last blown save came Sept. 17
That was just enough for Morris, who allowed six runs -- five
earned -- and 10 hits. Sure, he won for the first time in four
starts in Denver, but still has a 7.50 ERA there.
"You are not going to win too many of those games with the way
I pitched today," Morris said.
Morris' problems started early.
He gave up consecutive doubles to Barmes and Relaford for a run
in the first inning, then walked Kennedy -- a .182 hitter -- with two
outs in the second. Barmes followed with a bloop double, tying the
game at 2-all.
Morris still lasted until the sixth inning, when he was replaced
by a pinch-hitter.
"Morris did a good job of hanging in there," La Russa said.
Kennedy had plenty of his own problems.
He gave up two runs in the first inning after Relaford turned a
routine grounder into an error with a wide throw to first to open
Kennedy gave up two more runs in the third inning and didn't
last the fifth, leaving after Eckstein's leadoff single and So
St. Louis tied it at 6-all on Grudzielanek's run-scoring single
off Neal and Jim Edmonds' pinch-hit sacrifice fly.
Kennedy allowed six runs -- four earned -- and 11 hits in five
innings after allowing seven runs in five innings his previous
"The offense got me six runs which is more than enough,"
Kennedy said. "The problem is me."
The Colorado record of three doubles in a game has been
accomplished 25 times. 2B Aaron Miles last did it on April 4
against San Diego. ... Morris walked Matt Holliday to lead off the
second inning, the first one he had allowed in 16 2/3 innings.
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