Hot-hitting Renteria rallies Cards past Reds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2001

The Associated Press


Tuesday, August 14, 2001

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ST. LOUIS – Edgar Renteria, a different player since the trading deadline, got the St. Louis Cardinals a step closer to the NL Central lead.

Renteria, who’s batting .417 since July 31, capped a three-run eighth inning with a two-out, two-run single as the Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 Monday night for their fifth straight victory.

”You’re talking about a winning player,” manager Tony La Russa said. ”In six months, the cream comes to the top.”

The Cardinals, who have hovered around .500 most of the season, are now 4 1/2 games back in the NL Central. They’ve come from behind to win three of their last four.

”We’re not giving up, so hopefully they’re starting to panic,” closer Dave Veres said.

The Cardinals, winning five in a row for the first time since June 15-19, had just five hits in the first seven innings against Elmer Dessens (8-9) before Fernando Vina and Placido Polanco started the eighth with singles to put runners at the corners.

Mark McGwire hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right-center, Albert Pujols walked and reliever Hector Mercado walked Jim Edmonds to load the bases before Scott Sullivan struck out Craig Paquette.

Renteria then grounded a 2-1 pitch between shortstop and third base to drive in two runs. A disappointment at bat and in the field the first half of the season, Renteria is 20-for-48 with two homers since the trade deadline, raising his average 28 points to .254.

La Russa didn’t think the deadline was a factor, but recalled reassuring Renteria, who had been mentioned as bait in several proposed deals.

”He was bothered by those things way before the trade deadline,” La Russa said. ”As soon as ESPN first reported it he asked ‘Are you going to trade me?’ I said ‘No, I haven’t even thought about it.”’

Renteria called it a patient at-bat.

”He’s tough and he’s got a lot of different pitches,” Renteria said. ”I waited for mine – inside.”

Sullivan bemoaned the breaks of the game.

”It was a perfectly placed ball and that’s your ballgame,” Sullivan said. ”The bases were loaded and he hit the best I had, there’s no real mystery to it.”

Andy Benes (7-6) faced just one batter and got the victory, striking out Aaron Boone for the last out in the eighth. Veres finished for his 14th save in 17 chances and third in as many games.

Dessens allowed three runs on seven hits in 7 1-3 innings and Ken Griffey Jr. had a two-run single for the Reds.

”We get a good performance from our starter, but we can’t score enough runs to put the other team away,” Reds manager Bob Boone said. ”All the innings our bullpen has had to pitch caught up with them.”

Griffey’s 10-game hitting streak ended in a pinch-hit appearance on Sunday. His single in the fifth came after Dessens got his second straight infield hit and Todd Walker doubled.

Rookie Bud Smith allowed two runs in seven innings and Jim Edmonds had a pair of doubles for the Cardinals.

Smith, making his seventh career start, allowed eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks to lower his ERA to 2.89. He’s worked six or more innings in his last six starts.

Pujols had an infield hit in the first to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.

Notes: Dessens, who entered the game batting .051 (2-for-39), doubled his hit total with infield hits in the third and fifth. … Sean Casey had two hits and is 18-for-42 (.429) during a 10-game hitting streak. … CF Jim Edmonds, who won a Gold Glove last year, had no errors until Aug. 3 but has committed four in the 10 games since then. Edmonds’ throw to the plate after Griffey’s single caromed off the mound and high over the glove of C Eli Marrero. … After the game, the Reds optioned Mercado to Triple-A Louisville.