ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Despite two costly mistakes, Mark Mulder remained perfect at Tropicana Field.
The St. Louis left-hander allowed three runs over seven innings Friday night, helping the Cardinals beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
6-4 for his first win in more than three weeks.Mulder (8-4) gave up four hits, two of them home runs to Jorge Cantu, and got 17 groundball outs to stop a personal three-game losing streak and improve to 7-0 in eight career starts against the Devil Rays.He's 4-0 at Tropicana Field, with the other victories coming while he was with Oakland."I like pitching in domes. I don't know why. ... I feel comfortable in them," Mulder said. "With the turf, you get the true hops. And since I'm a groundball pitcher, I think it's helped me."Mark Grudzielanek, Abraham Nunez, David Eckstein, So Taguchi and Reggie Sanders drove in runs for the Cardinals in their first visit to Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay was the only team in the majors St. Louis had never faced before this series.Cantu hit a two-run homer in the third, giving the Devil Rays a 2-1 lead. He added a solo shot in the sixth to trim a three-run deficit to 5-3."Each of the mistakes I made they hit hard," said Mulder, who also gave up a double to Jonny Gomes and a single to Damon Hollins.
"Both of the pitches to Cantu were right down the middle."Julian Tavarez, Ray King and Brad Thompson pitched the eighth for St. Louis. Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth, allowing one run and earning his 19th save in 20 opportunities.Mulder struck out one and walked two, winning for the first time since beating Pittsburgh on May 25.Travis Harper (1-5) replaced Devil Rays starter Scott Kazmir in
the fifth and allowed three runs and five hits in four innings.The game was a homecoming of sorts for the Cardinals, who held spring training in St. Petersburg for 57 years from 1938-42 and 1946-97. The team's popularity here was reflected in the announced crowd of 19,099 -- more than 6,000 above the Devil Rays' season average."It would be interesting see how many of them watched us train here for 50 years. It had to be quite a few of them," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.The night also marked the first time La Russa managed a regular-season game in the area where he grew up.La Russa's counterpart with the Devil Rays, Lou Piniella, is also a native of Tampa. They played against each other in high school and were teammates in American Legion and Pony League ball.Kazmir allowed two runs and six hits in four innings before leaving with a mild right ankle sprain that is not expected to keep him from making next start. The left-hander was injured when he fielded Sanders' infield hit and threw to first base with two outs
in the third.Kazmir left the field briefly to have his ankle taped before finishing the inning by striking out Grudzielanek. The 21-year-old gave up a RBI single to Nunez in the fourth, departing with the score tied 2-2."I stopped real quick and just rolled my ankle. After I taped it up, I was feeling a lot better," Kazmir said. "I guess they didn't want to take any chances."The Cardinals went ahead for good in the fifth when Sanders singled for his third hit and then scored from first on Larry Walker's
single and two errors the Devil Rays committed fielding the hit and relaying the ball.St. Louis added two runs in the sixth on Eckstein's RBI grounder and Taguchi's run-scoring single that made it 5-2. Sanders had a sacrifice fly off Lance Carter in the ninth.The Devil Rays wasted numerous opportunities, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They had the tying run at the plate in the ninth, when Isringhausen got Julio Lugo to pop out to end the game."We just couldn't come through. That's the most important thing," Cantu said, downplaying his three RBI. "I'm a team player, and what I do doesn't mean anything."
La Russa leads the matchup with Piniella 42-35, including postseason and All-Star meetings. Piniella's Reds swept La Russa's Athletics in the 1990 World Series and the La Russa-managed AL beat Piniella and the NL in the 1991 All-Star Game. ... Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen could be activated from the 15-day disabled list Saturday after missing 33 games with a left shoulder strain.