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Cards Open Up 10-Game Lead

Shawon Dunston turned Pat Hentgen's frown around.

After Hentgen gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Sean Casey in the seventh, Dunston broke the tie with a pinch-hit homer leading off the bottom of the inning as the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Wednesday night.

"He's got eight home runs and I think he's got like nine at-bats, know what I mean?" Hentgen said. "Shawon's been coming up big all year."

Hentgen (7-6) matched his longest outing of the season, allowing three runs on five hits. He was still stewing in the dugout over the homer when Dunston hit a 2-2 pitch from Pete Harnisch (1-5) over the left-field wall.

Left fielder Ray Lankford appeared to turn the wrong way on the previous batter, as Dante Bichette's flyball fell for a double at the warning track. But that had nothing to do with Hentgen's angry pacing.

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  • "I don't really think about it like that," Hentgen said. "I made a pitch that was out over the plate and he smacked it over Ray's head. I was just mad at myself because I had a two-run lead and I gave up a two-run bomb and that's not good pitching."

    Although Dunston is only 3-for-17 as a pinch-hitter, two of the hits are homers.

    "I'm just trying to do the best I can," Dunston said. "I wasn't loking for a home run. I know Pete's tough and I was about 3-for-20 against him."

    Harnisch second-guessed his pitch selection. Dunston fouled off a number of fastballs before hitting another fastball.

    "I'm frustrated, man," Harnisch said. "Casey makes a big swing to bring 'em back and I (messed) it up, anyway."

    The Cardinals won the first two games of the series to open a 10-game lead over second-place Cincinnati in the NL Central, their first double-digit lead since Sept. 21, 1968. They've won 17 of their last 22, while the Reds have dropped 19 of 28.

    "We've got to win games," Harnisch said. "We're not even at .500. We're a long way away."

    Ken Griffey Jr., in a 2-for-22 slump, was a late lineup scratch due to illness, a Reds spokesman said.

    "My stomach hurt," Griffey said after the game, adding he expected to play in the series finale Thursday.

    Hentgen was happy not to have to face him.

    "Of course, hah, hah, hah," Hentgen said. "He's one of the greatest hitters, probably, that ever lived. It's always nice to miss him."

    Griffey's replacement in the No. 3 slot, 10-homer man Michael Tucker, struck out twice and grounded out twice. Griffey, who made his first pinch-hitting appearance since Sept. 24, 1992, with Seattle, flied out to left in the ninth.

    The other half of the star matchup, Mark McGwire, was 0-for-2 with a pair of walks.

    J.D. Drew also homered for the Cardinals, who were without Jim Edmonds, at home with stomach flu. Edmonds' replacement in the outfield, Thomas Howard, had an RBI single in the first. Drew homered for the second straight start, and Edgar Renteria added a sacrifice fly in a two-run fifth as the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead.

    Matt Morris worked the eighth and Dave Veres got two outs for his 17th save in 21 chances.

    Chris Stynes, who replaced the injured Aaron Boone at third base after two innings, also homered for the Reds. Boone hyperextended his right knee when he bumped into Barry Larkin as the shortstop caught a soft liner by Hentgen to end the second.

    "It doesn't look like it's anything serious, more than a day or so," manager Jack McKeon said.

    Harnisch lasted seven innings, allowing four runs two earned on five hits.


  • The Cardinals' 50-33 start is the franchise's best since 1987, when they were 54-29 en route to the NL pennant. St. Louis is 46-0 when leading after eight innings.
  • The Cardinals have six pinch homers.
  • The Cardinals have outscored opponents 95-44 in the first inning.
  • Harnisch won his four previous starts against the Cardinals, with a 2.28 ERA.
  • McGwire leads the majors with 75 walks, 11 intentional.
  • A crowd of 45,269 gave the Cardinals their 15th sellout of the season, and seventh in eight games.

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