Cardinals 3, Pirates 2
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Once the St. Louis Cardinals finally put some runners on, they were able to do something on the bases. Namely, run themselves into a victory in a game they easily could have lost.
Much like they did numerous times a season ago en route to winning the World Series.
Gary Bennett successfully gambled by running on a short fly ball to score the winning run in the 12th inning and the Cardinals rallied from two runs down in the ninth to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Bennett singled and Aaron Miles doubled with one out in the 12th against John Wasdin (0-1), the fifth Pirates pitcher. Yadier Molina was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the double-play opportunity. But Skip Schumaker lifted a fly ball to left fielder Jason Bay, whose throw to the plate beat Bennett only to have catcher Ronny Paulino drop the ball.
"We were taking a chance, but we got a nice hop on Bay's throw that gives it just that little extra," manager Tony La Russa said, commending third base coach Jose Oquendo's decision to send the runner. "Guys in the dugout are yelling, 'Send him, send him.' You're better off making the third out at the plate rather than putting it on David [Eckstein] to get a two-out hit."
Schumaker was credited with a sacrifice fly, even though it appeared Bennett would have been out if Paulino held onto the ball.
"It was a bang-bang play," Paulino said. "I had the ball for a second. But when I went to tag him, I dropped it. I never got a chance to grab it."
A similar baserunning play in the ninth helped the Cardinals tie it after they went into the inning trailing 2-0.
After Eckstein singled and Chris Duncan walked against Pirates closer Salomon Torres, Albert Pujols missed a home run by several feet on a long fly ball that Bay tracked down several feet from the wall. The drive was deep enough that both runners tagged up, allowing last-minute lineup replacement Scott Spiezio to tie it with a two-run single to right.
La Russa praised Eckstein and Duncan for being aggressive and moving up on the play.
Spiezio, who didn't play Monday because of food poisoning, started only because Scott Rolen was held out with back spasms. Rolen, who had five RBIs in his last two games, had been in the Cardinals' lineup until a few minutes before game time.
"Put a special gold star next to his name," La Russa said of Spiezio. "He was not going to play in this game, in an emergency only, he gutted it up and he ended up playing 12 innings."
Spiezio was weak and tired when the game started and said it was a challenge to make it through the first few innings. By the end, he was glad he played.
"That was the way we were last year, come from behind and never give up," he said. "It was a great win for us."
And a tough loss for the Pirates, who wasted Gorzelanny's seven shutout innings. The left-hander, who stayed in the Pirates' rotation despite a miserable spring training in which his ERA was above 10.00 for most of March, struck out five, walked none and retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.
Gorzelanny wouldn't blame Torres for failing for the first time in five save situations this season.
"He's a great closer and he's going to be a great closer," Gorzelanny said. "A hundred times more, I'd put him in that situation."
Gorzelanny had to be sharp against Cardinals replacement starter Randy Keisler, who limited the Pirates to two runs over six innings in his first major-league start since 2005 with Cincinnati.
Keisler, a former Yankees farmhand, couldn't have been much better in replacing the injured Chris Carpenter until Jose Bautista hit a one-out homer in the fifth. The Pirates made it 2-0 on Sanchez's double and Bay's RBI single in the sixth.
"I'll take that," said Keisler, who retired 12 batters in a row at one point. "I'll take that any day."
The Cardinals have won four of five, the Pirates have lost four of five. The Cardinals are .500 (4-4) for the first time this season. ... The gametime temperature of 44 was seven degrees warmer than that on Monday afternoon for the Pirates' home opener. The previous four Pirates games were played with temperatures in the 30s, including three in Cincinnati. ... Carpenter went on the disabled list Monday with a sore right elbow. ... Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, hitting .097, was dropped from fourth to sixth in the order.
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