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Walker strikes out in Cards debut

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Larry Walker is 1-0 with the St. Louis
Cardinals, and he played a supporting role in the victory with his
new team.

Rookie Yadier Molina, batting with the bases loaded after an
intentional walk to Walker, blooped a 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 ovation even after he struck out
against Kris Benson.

"Probably one of the most nervous at-bats I've had in my career
was today," Walker said. "The ovation I got, even after I struck
out, I felt like I was supposed to wave to the crowd and say
thanks. It was amazing."

Walker soon 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.

"They walked a good hitter," Molina said. "They're just
playing the game. That was my part."

Mets manager Art Howe said it would have been dumb to pitch to
Walker. Stanton blamed himself for walking the first two hitters he
faced, including John Mabry on four pitches.

"When you get yourself in a corner like that, there's no room
for error," Stanton said. "It's just ridiculous. I can't go out
there and do what I just did."

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 9½ seasons in
Colorado.

"I'm happy to be here," Walker said. "It's a great situation,
great team, great fans. There's only one way to think, and that's
good."

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 Sunday in the finale of a six-game homestand. But
Walker said he would be batting fifth against left-hander Al
Leiter.

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.

He already is working closely with pitching coach Rick Peterson.

"I felt a lot more comfortable because of the minor corrections
we made," Benson said. "It made a big difference. I'm more
comfortable in the clubhouse, more comfortable around the guys."

The teams combined for only eight hits, five by the Cardinals.

Kaz Matsui had an RBI single in the sixth for the Mets. He left
the game due to soreness in his lower left leg in the seventh.

Scott Rolen doubled with one out in the fourth and scored on
Mabry's one-out single to put the Cardinals ahead.

The Mets tied it in the sixth when Jose Reyes doubled for New
York's first hit and scored on Matsui's single.

Williams was far from dominant early, falling behind in the
count to 10 of his first 12 batters, and he worked his way out of
trouble in the second after walking Cliff Floyd and hitting Mike
Cameron with a pitch to start the inning.

"I think once I get my sweat going and feet wet, I seem to
settle down and make pitches," Williams said. "Early on I was
kind of all over the place."

Williams also made the defensive play of the game with a sliding
stop of Reyes' drag bunt near the first-base line in the third and
a shovel toss to first for the out. In his last 10 starts, he's 5-0
with a 2.77 ERA.

Benson was a lot better in his second start with the Mets, who
acquired him from Pittsburgh in a trade on July 30. He gave up
seven runs in five innings in his New York debut against the Braves
on July 31.

Game notes
The Mets will hold a memorial service in New York for
former announcer Bob Murphy at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at St. Patrick's
Cathedral. It is open to the public. ... Albert Pujols was 0-for-4
with two strikeouts. He has struck out twice in a game only three
times this season, and this was the first time since June 4. ...
Cameron, who was 0-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch, has
eight homers in the first 12 games of a 13-game trip. ... The
Cardinals are 9-2 against the Mets the last two seasons, including
4-1 this year.