Sunday, August 8, 2004

NL: Standing ovation for Walker in win

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals won their first game with Larry Walker when rookie Yadier Molina blooped a bases-loaded single to center with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday for a 2-1 victory over the New York Mets.

Walker, acquired in a trade with Colorado on Friday night, was welcomed with a standing ovation that lasted well over a minute when he pinch hit with two on and one out in the seventh. A near-sellout crowd of 45,364 stayed on its feet throughout the at-bat and gave him another standing ovation even after he struck out against Kris Benson.

But Walker participated in the winning rally. The fans booed when the five-time All-Star was walked intentionally by Mike Stanton (0-5) with runners on second and third and two outs in the ninth. Molina followed by dumping a soft single into shallow left-center.

Walker, the 1997 NL MVP, arrived at Busch Stadium about a half-hour before the game, too late to be in the starting lineup with his new team. But he went to right field after pinch hitting, perhaps easing his transition to St. Louis after 9 1/2 seasons in Colorado.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said before the game that he would bat Walker second or fourth in the lineup when he makes his first start today in the finale of a six-game homestand.

Steve Kline and Julian Tavarez (4-3) combined to strike out the side in the top of the ninth for the Cardinals, who have won 15 of 19 and have the best record in the major leagues at 71-38.

Woody Williams and Benson had strong starts. Williams had a no-hitter through five innings for St. Louis and gave up one run and two hits in seven innings. Benson allowed a run and four hits in seven innings in his second start for the Mets.

Braves 6, Diamondbacks 2

PHOENIX - Paul Byrd won consecutive starts for the first time in nearly two years, allowing two runs in his longest outing of the season to lead Atlanta.

Chipper Jones backed Byrd with two RBI, and Rafael Furcal had an RBI double. The Braves won for the ninth time in 10 games and improved to 17-5 since the All-Star break.

Quinton McCracken had a leadoff home run and a sacrifice fly for the Diamondbacks, who skidded to their 22nd loss in 26 games. The defeat left Arizona (35-77) a franchise-record 42 games below .500.

Byrd (4-3), who missed all of last season with elbow problems, allowed five hits and no walks in 7 1/3 innings - his best performance since working seven scoreless in a 4-0 win over Cleveland on June 19.

Marlins 5, Brewers 0

MIAMI - Jeff Conine hit a grand slam, and Ismael Valdez pitched six shutout innings to win his debut with Florida. Valdez (10-6), acquired a week ago in a trade with San Diego, allowed two hits and walked three. The outing was the longest in his past eight starts, and he reached double figures in victories for the first time since 1998.

Expos 8, Astros 3

HOUSTON - Jon Rauch pitched six solid innings a day after being recalled from the minors, and Alex Gonzalez hit a two-run homer to lead Montreal. Rauch (1-0), acquired with right-hander Gary Majewski from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Carl Everett on July 18 and sent to Triple-A Edmonton, allowed three runs and seven hits.

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