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Ankiel breaks tie; Cards pull away from Nats

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WASHINGTON (AP)

With the go-ahead run on base after Washington's 10th walk of the night, Rick Ankiel was hoping to get something hittable up and over the plate. The way Nationals pitchers had trouble locating, it wasn't an unreasonable expectation. Ankiel hit a tiebreaking RBI double in St. Louis' five-run ninth inning and the Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 9-4 Thursday night for their eighth victory in 10 games. "Last year, if we lost a lead late, it seemed like our bats were dead and we just didn't come around," Ankiel said. "It's early, but as early as it is, it seems like the game is never over with this team. We've always got a chance to come back." Albert Pujols hit his eighth homer for St. Louis in the first inning, belting a two-run shot to finish an at-bat that featured two of Daniel Cabrera's four wild pitches. "There were some strange things that happened, but when you come out here and play day-in and day-out, there's always going to be some weird things happening," Ankiel said. "We're just happy we came out on top." What Ankiel saw as odd was just more of the same to Washington manager Manny Acta. "They just walked themselves into trouble. They walked themselves into losing the ballgame. Walks allowed them to tie. Walks allowed them to take a lead. I mean, they didn't hit the ball hard in the last inning and they ended up scoring five runs. ... It's unacceptable," Acta said. Acta, who overhauled his bullpen two weeks ago, isn't sure how to fix the wildness. "Walking guys after 0-2 counts, walking guys at the bottom of the order - I don't know why," Acta said. "You shouldn't be afraid. ... You're pitching for a last-place team in a half-empty stadium. What can you be intimidated (by) right now?" Chris Perez (1-1) got the last two outs of the eighth inning for the win. Ryan Zimmerman homered, extending his hitting streak to a Nationals-record 19 games. Still, the Nationals lost for the seventh time in 10 games. Chris Duncan sparked the decisive rally with a one-out walk off Julian Tavarez (0-2). Ankiel then sliced a double into the left-field corner and the ball bounced away from Adam Dunn as Duncan scored. Joe Thurston walked and Jason LaRue was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Third baseman Zimmerman couldn't handle Tyler Greene's dribbler up the line, allowing Ankiel to score on Greene's first major league hit, and Thurston was safe when catcher Jesus Flores dropped shortstop Cristian Guzman's throw home. "Every one of their relievers made good pitches. Then the fly ball down the line - that's a tough loss for Tavarez, a fly ball down the left-field line and a swinging bunt," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. "That's the breaks of the game." Joel Hanrahan replaced Tavarez and balked home LaRue for an 8-4 lead before Greene stole third and scored on pinch-hitter Brian Barden's sacrifice fly. Cabrera struggled with his control in the first and the Cardinals took advantage. Colby Rasmus drew a one-out walk and two wild pitches - one behind Pujols' back - sent him to third before Pujols slammed a 3-1 pitch into the St. Louis bullpen. Washington tied it in the bottom half on Zimmerman's two-run shot. Cabrera worked six innings, giving up three runs and four hits with five walks. Mitchell Boggs allowed four runs and six hits over six innings for St. Louis. He struck out nine and walked two.

Notes

LF Skip Schumaker extended his hitting streak to 11 games. ... St. Louis placed INF Brendan Ryan on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring and recalled Greene from Triple-A Memphis. Greene made his major league debut. ... Cabrera, who was 0 for 21 with 19 strikeouts in his career, reached first in the fifth when he was grazed on the jersey by a Boggs pitch. ... Plate umpire Jim Reynolds was briefly dazed when he was struck in the head by a warmup pitch from St. Louis' Blaine Boyer before the seventh, but stayed in the game.
Tagged: Nationals, Cardinals

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