Reds go back-to-back in beating Cards in 9th


CINCINNATI (AP) -- Barry Larkin dropped his bat and broke into a
huge, incredulous smile. The Cincinnati Reds' most accomplished
player couldn't believe what he'd just done.

Larkin came to the plate for the first time in more than three
weeks and delivered a pinch-hit two-run homer on his first swing,
giving the Reds a 6-5 victory Tuesday night over the St. Louis

"That was a lucky shot tonight," Larkin ready conceded, after
taking a rare postgame curtain call.

The Reds got their second game-ending homer in two nights
because the Cardinals' bullpen failed to hold a one-run lead once
again. It helped that Larkin failed in his pregame politicking.

The 39-year-old shortstop had been on the disabled list since
April 14 with a strained calf and was activated before the game. He
tried to talk his way into the lineup, but manager Bob Boone wasn't
sure he could make it through an entire game.

He was saving Larkin for the right spot.

"He looked down at me a couple of times earlier where I thought
he might have made a double-switch, but I guess he knew what would
happen in the ninth," Larkin said.

Larkin got his chance against one of the NL's worst bullpens.
With closer Jason Isringhausen recovering from offseason shoulder
surgery, St. Louis has relied on top-notch starting pitching and
the league's best defense.

In the last two games, it hasn't been enough.

The Cardinals arrived at Great American Ball Park with a
seven-game winning streak, but Aaron Boone snapped it with a solo
shot off Dustin Hermanson in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 win
Monday night.

A day later, Kiko Calero (1-1) failed to hold a 5-4 lead. He
gave up a one-out single to Juan Castro, then left his second pitch
to Larkin up and over the plate.

While waiting for Isringhausen, the Cardinals have blown nine of
their 14 save chances, the main reason they're 2-9 in one-run

"Kiko has done a good job," manager Tony La Russa said.
"Today he didn't have his good stuff. We'll find an answer."

Albert Pujols hit a tying two-run homer in the eighth off Gabe White, and J.D. Drew hit his first career pinch homer leading off
the ninth against Chris Reitsma (2-1) to give the Cardinals their
first lead.

The two homers put starter Brett Tomko in line for a sweet
victory. He wanted to look good against his former team, which beat
him twice last year.

Tomko gave up eight hits, including Austin Kearns' three-run
homer, and pitched out of a bases-loaded threat in the eighth to
put himself in line for a breakthrough win. Then one of his
favorite former teammates snatched it away.

"It's Lark's town, and he's got a flair for the dramatic,"
Tomko said. "I'll have a word with him later."

The Reds couldn't find the words to describe their most
improbable comeback of the bunch. Nine of their 15 wins have come
in their final at-bat.

"That was unbelievable," said Aaron Boone, who stood in the
back of the players' circle at home to greet Larkin. "I was
speechless. He hadn't seen a pitch in three weeks. What can you

The victory gave the Reds a winning record (9-8) at their new
ballpark for the first time all season.

Until the ninth, the main intrigue involved Tomko. During his
1999 season in Cincinnati, the right-hander feuded with former
manager Jack McKeon, who publicly questioned his toughness. The
Reds shipped him to Seattle after the season as part of the package
for Ken Griffey Jr.

Playing for San Diego last season, Tomko made two emotional
starts and two quick meltdowns against his former team. He walked
four in the first inning of the Reds' 4-3 win on Aug. 4 in San
Diego, and gave up nine runs in the Reds' 12-10 victory in
Cincinnati five days later.

Game notes
While the Cardinals were batting in the second inning, the
Delta Queen riverboat set off from just outside the ballpark,
loudly playing "Camptown Races" and "Take Me Out To The
Ballgame" on its calliope. ... Griffey is still trying to get his
strength and full range of motion back in his right shoulder, which
he dislocated on April 5 while diving for a ball. He's not allowed
to swing a bat or toss a ball. "Not much has changed," Griffey
said. ... OF Jose Guillen had three hits, including an RBI single,
as he extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games.