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Finley settles for two-hitter in Cards' nightcap win

8/28/2002

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chuck Finley left all of his baggage back in Cleveland.

The left-hander allowed only two singles by Juan Castro as he pitched his first shutout in four years, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 victory and doubleheader split Tuesday with the Cincinnati Reds.

Finley (5-3) has made a strong recovery from his troubled times in Cleveland this seasonwhich included a 4-11 record and a messy divorce with actress Tawny Kitaen.

He came to the Cardinals in a July 19 trade and has settled in comfortably, going 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA in his last four starts.

"When I got over here, I got a boost of energy and some new life,'' Finley said, after his 15th career shutout. "It's been a good change. I haven't felt pressure to do anything superhuman -- not that I could. It's been a smooth transition.''

The Reds tried to trade for Finley and third baseman Scott Rolen, who also wound up going to the NL Central leaders in a July 29 trade with Philadelphia. The two of them figured prominently in a split that solidified the Cardinals' hold on first place.

Rolen let in two runs with a throwing error and hit into a game-ending double play as Cincinnati held on to win the first game 5-4.

He hit a three-run homer in the first inning of the second game,
and Finley took it from there as the Cardinals ended a four-game
losing streak. The split padded the Cardinals' lead to 3{ games
over Houston and kept it at 7{ over Cincinnati.

"When he's on, he's tough,'' said Ken Griffey Jr., who poppped out, flied out and grounded out against Finley. "We just couldn't get anything going.''

Finley retired the first 16 batters before Castro lined a single
to center in the sixth, drawing an ovation from the crowd of
19,570. Castro was erased on a double play, and the Reds had the
minimum 24 batters through eight innings.

Jason LaRue opened the ninth with a walk and Castro hit a soft
infield single. Finley retired the next three batters for his first
shutout since April 17, 1998 against Tampa Bay.

"You have a couple of games like that a year, where everything
just flows,'' Finley said.

Finley's seven strikeouts moved him one ahead of Hall of Famer
Bob Feller into 20th on the career list with 2,582.

Elmer Dessens (7-6) was activated from the disabled list and made his first start since Aug. 1, when he strained his groin. He was rusty in the first inning, when the first five Cardinals reached and scored.

They loaded the bases on Fernando Vina's single, Edgar
Renteria's double and a walk to Jim Edmonds. Albert Pujols lined a
two-run single over Dessens' head, and Rolen homered three pitches
later for a 5-0 lead.

Dessens went five innings, giving up six hits and five runs. His earned run average jumped from 2.67 -- third-best in the NL -- to 2.89.

Instead of making a comeback against Finley, the Reds wound up being shut out for the second time in three games.

In the first game, the Cardinals couldn't overcome Rolen's
throwing error and one bad inning by Jason Simontacchi (9-5). The
Reds sent 10 batters to the plate in the second, scoring all five
runs before making an out.

Rolen let in two of the runs on his sailing throw to the plate
as he tried to get a forceout with the bases loaded.

Rolen and Albert Pujols hit consecutive solo homers in the third
off Brian Moehler, who struggled once again for the third-place
Reds. Chris Reitsma (5-9) took over in the third and gave up a run
in 3 2/3 innings for the win.

Danny Graves pitched the ninth for his 30th save in 37 chances.
Graves joined John Franco as the only Reds pitchers with 30 saves
in three consecutive seasons.

Pujols' 30th homer also gave him 100 RBI and moved him into exclusive territory in Cardinals history. He became the second Cardinal to drive in 100 runs in each of his first two seasons -- Ray Jablonski also did it in 1953-54.

Pujols also became the fifth Cardinal to hit 30 homers in consecutive seasons, joining Stan Musial, Ray Lankford, Mark McGwire and Edmonds.

"I'm just letting it happen instead of trying to make it happen,'' Pujols said.

He hit 37 homers and drove in 130 runs last season, when he was unanimously chosen NL rookie of the year, and is on pace to match or surpass those numbers.

"I don't think you can compliment him enough,'' manager Tony La Russa said. "Here it is, not even the end of August, and he's done it. It just shows you how tough of an out he is.''

Reds rookie Austin Kearns extended his hitting streak to a
season-high 13 games with an RBI single in the second, but strained
his left hamstring while running out a groundout in the fifth. The
Reds placed him on the 15-day disabled list after the game.

Game notes
It was the first doubleheader of the season for both teams.
... The Reds called up OF Jose Guillen, signed as a free agent on
Aug. 20, from Triple-A Louisville to replace Kearns. ... In seven
starts for the Reds, Moehler has given up seven homers and has a
6.62 ERA. In his last two starts, the right-hander has given up
nine runs in only 4 1/3 innings.