Giants capitalize on four St. Louis errors

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- This time, the San Francisco Giants survived a ninth-inning scare.

Two days after the Giants blew a four-run lead against St. Louis, the Cardinals had the tying runs on base Sunday and sent up pinch-hitters Larry Walker and Albert Pujols. But Armando Benitez struck out So Taguchi to preserve a 4-2 win.

"They had a shot at winning the game in the ninth," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "They sent Walker and Pujols up to the plate with the potential tying and winning runs, but today they didn't take advantage. But the other night they did."

Jason Schmidt allowed four hits in seven shutout innings, and the Giants capitalized on four St. Louis errors.

Scott Seabol's bases-empty, two-out error at third base in the fourth led to three runs, hours after the Cardinals learned that All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen will have shoulder surgery and miss the rest of the season.

Schmidt (10-6) struck out three and walked two in his third straight win. Every Giants starter except J.T. Snow and Mike Matheny had a hit.

Benitez made his second appearance after missing nearly four months with an injured right hamstring. It was his fifth save in seven chances but his first since April 23.

With two on and none out, he struck out Walker and got David Eckstein to fly out. Pujols, pinch-hitting on a rare day off, singled home a run for his NL-best 96th RBI before Taguchi struck out.

On Friday night, Tyler Walker gave up four straight hits to open the ninth in a game the Cardinals rallied to win 5-4.

Despite missing a number of injured starters in the second half of the season, St. Louis has maintained a double-digit lead over second-place Houston in the NL Central because its reserves have played well -- except for Sunday.

Schmidt said facing a makeshift lineup is, in some ways, harder than facing the regulars.

"That can be the worst thing, when you get a bunch of guys up there you haven't seen a lot," he said.

The Cardinals didn't get a runner to third base off Schmidt and the four errors tied a season high for the team that ranks third in the National League in fielding percentage.

Filling in for Rolen, Seabol struck out twice and was robbed of a double leading off the second when his liner down the third base line landed between the legs of umpire Eric Cooper. Jumping to get out of the way, Cooper called the ball foul. Replays clearly showed the ball landing fair by a couple inches.

Seabol's error came on a lazy chopper off the bat of Moises Alou
with two outs and nobody on in the fourth. Alou was barely running as Seabol gloved the ball and threw well above the outstretched glove of first baseman John Mabry.

"You give them an extra out, which we did, and you pay for it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Seabol called it a "stupid play."

"It was bad. It turned out to be the play that cost us the game. It's a stupid play and I've got to do better than that," he said.

Ray Durham followed with a single off starter Jeff Suppan (12-9) and Pedro Feliz hit a ground-rule double to make it 1-0. Edgardo Alfonzo blooped a single to right to make it 3-0.

The Giants added a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Randy Winn.

Seabol drove in the first St. Louis run with an eighth-inning single.

Suppan pitched six innings, allowing four runs -- one earned -- and seven hits. He struck out four and walked two.

The only opening-day starters in Sunday's lineup for St. Louis were shortstop Eckstein and center fielder Jim Edmonds, and Edmonds lasted only half the game -- he was ejected in the middle of the fifth while arguing that his throw to second got Omar Vizquel, who went to second after Edmonds overran his bloop single.

Besides the errors by Seabol and Edmonds, second baseman Abraham Nunez allowed a liner to glance off his glove in the fourth and right fielder Taguchi whiffed while fielding a single in the second, allowing Alou to advance to second.

Game notes
Retired outfielder Ray Lankford, the career home run leader at Busch Stadium with 123, tore down No. 16 in the countdown of games remaining at the stadium, which gives way to a new ballpark in 2006. ... Sunday's game was the last at Busch Stadium for the Giants. San Francisco was 102-124 in the regular season and 3-3 in the postseason (1-3 in the 1987 NL Championship Series and 2-0 in the 2002 NLCS). ... La Russa needs two wins to match Sparky Anderson for third on the all-time list (2,194). ... Alou leads the majors with a .417 average in day games.