Ankiel Homers, Helps Cardinals to Win

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Friday, August 10, 2007; 3:35 AM

-- Rick Ankiel made a powerful return to the major leagues after a three-year absence, one that nearly drove sentimental St. Louis manager Tony La Russa to tears.

The failed pitcher hit a three-run homer in his first game back in the major leagues, helping Joel Pineiro and the Cardinals to a 5-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night at Busch Stadium.

Ankiel, who led the Pacific Coast League with 32 homers for Triple-A Memphis, started in right and launched a 2-1 curveball from Doug Brocail over the right-field wall in the seventh with an effortless swing.

The drive merited a standing ovation and a curtain call for the once-troubled left-hander, who walked away from a pitching career in frustration more than two years ago. A misty-eyed La Russa compared Ankiel's return with Adam Wainwright striking out Detroit's Brandon Inge for the final out in the World Series.

"Short of winning the World Series, it's the happiest I've seen our club," La Russa said. "I'm fighting my butt off to keep it together.

"Next to striking out Inge, that's the happiest I've been in this uniform."

In other NL games, it was: Atlanta 7, the New York Mets 6; the Los Angeles Dodgers 5, Cincinnati 4 in 11 innings; Arizona 4, Pittsburgh 2; Florida 4, Philadelphia 2; the Chicago Cubs 10, Colorado 2; and Washington 3, San Francisco 1.

The Cardinals took three of four from the NL West-contending Padres, spoiling Chris Young's return in the finale.

Young (9-4) was activated from the 15-day disabled list for a strained left side muscle before the start. In six-plus innings, he allowed four runs and three hits with five strikeouts and five walks, hiking his major league-leading ERA 20 points to 2.02.

"I was a little rusty, but no problem," Young said. "I didn't feel like I pitched that poorly. It wasn't my best, it wasn't my worst."

Pineiro (1-1), acquired from Boston for a minor league player to be named, made his second start for his new team and retired the side in order three of his seven innings. He struck out four and walked none.

St. Louis didn't have a runner in scoring position until a two-out rally in the fourth capped by Yadier Molina's RBI single. Scott Rolen singled and Chris Duncan walked before Molina's hit.

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