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April 22: Cardinals 4, Reds 2

The Cardinals used a two-hour rain delay to their advantage and brought home the first game in a weekend battle for first place in the National League Central Division.

Manager Tony La Russa, knowing that rain was bearing down, started Miguel Batista in place of Kyle McClellan. When the rains stopped, McClellan was fresh and ready to go while Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez, who warmed up but did not pitch in the game, wasn't able to continue.

It was a slick move in the managerial chess game between La Russa and Cincy skipper Dusty Baker. McClellan threw six innings and allowed a pair of runs on seven hits and three walks to lead St. Louis to a 4-2 win.

The Birds victimized the Reds bullpen for single runs in the first three innings -- but each time they could have piled on more, which allowed the Reds to stay in the game. And it sure seemed like the stranded runners would come back to haunt them.

Cincinnati cut its deficit to 3-1 in the fifth inning when Brandon Phillips hit a solo homer. But the Redbirds were able to respond when Yadier Molina singled home a run with two outs to make it 4-1 and restore the three-run lead.

In the sixth it inning it looked like things were going to go terribly wrong. Albert Pujols didn't move immediately to cover first base because he assumed that Daniel Descalso couldn't make a diving play on a ball hit to his right. When Descalso did make the play, he had to double clutch while he waited for Albert to get to the bag and the runner was barely safe to put Cincinnati runners at first and second.

The next Reds hitter smacked the ball right to third baseman David Freese who went home with the ball instead of trying to get the around the horn double play. The runner trying to score was finally tagged out in a multiple throw rundown. But it allowed Jay Bruce, to advance from second to third (even though replays showed he was easily out because his front foot was above the base but never touched it.)

The next Reds hitter grounded to short but Bruce inexplicably stayed put at third. And when McClellan coaxed a pop up to left field for the third out, Cincinnati was held scoreless in what could have been a disastrous inning for St. Louis.

The Reds threatened again in the eighth. Jason Motte got Edgar Renteria out before allowing consecutive singles. After getting a fly out for the second out, Mitchell Boggs took over and picked former Cardinal Miguel Cairo off to end the threat. He allowed one hit in the ninth but nailed down his second save in as many tries to push St. Louis to 11-9 and a game ahead of Cincinnati in the standings.

Cardinals Star of the Game: Ryan Theriot was 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

Cardinals Play of the Game: Boggs' pickoff to end the eighth inning.

Lowlight: Pujols failure to cover first base in the sixth inning. But it's sort of tough to blame him. Regular second baseman Skip Schumaker would never have made the play that Daniel Descalso got.

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