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Arizona at St. Louis

St. Louis
W: O. Villarreal (1-0) L: B. Tomko (1-2)
S: M. Mantei (2)
HR: ARI - None   STL - None

Mantei closes the door as D-Backs edge Cardinals

SportsLine.com wire reports

ST. LOUIS -- A day after his first save in two seasons, Matt Mantei overwhelmed the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Arizona Diamondbacks closer got three of the final four outs by strikeout, hitting 100 mph on the team's radar gun on the final pitch to Mike Matheny, to preserve a 1-0 victory Sunday.

Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez try to hold Tino Martinez at bay.  
Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez try to hold Tino Martinez at bay. (AP) 
Two pitches were clocked at 99 mph and eight more at 98.

"Matt was awesome," catcher Chad Moeller said. "His fastball was electric."

Rookie reliever Oscar Villarreal pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings after starter Miguel Batista was ejected and David Dellucci had an RBI double in the fifth.

The defending NL West champion Diamondbacks took two of three for their first series win of the season and are 7-12 overall. Entering the series, they had lost five straight regular-season games to the Cardinals, who also swept them in the first round of the playoffs last fall.

"We know we're going to lose ballgames from time to time," manager Bob Brenly said. "But if you can win series and move along at the end of the year, you'll be right where you want to be."

The Cardinals put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth, but Mantei recovered to strike out Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo. After hitting J.D. Drew with a pitch, Mantei struck out Mike Matheny to end it and earn his second save. Mantei retired six straight batters for his first save in two seasons in a 4-3 victory Saturday.

"Sometimes my body feels good and everything falls into place," Mantei said. "That's what's been happening lately."

Batista and Cardinals first baseman Tino Martinez were ejected after their fight precipitated a bench-clearing brawl in the fifth inning. Villarreal (1-0), a rookie who has made one start, struck out four and allowed one hit.

St. Louis, which entered with a league-leading .302 average, was held to five hits.

Leadoff hitter Craig Counsell had three hits and scored the only run after doubling to lead off the fifth. Dellucci, an unlikely cleanup hitter with 24 career home runs in five seasons, drove him in with a one-out double off Brett Tomko (1-2).

The Diamondbacks were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Tomko avoided first-inning trouble that dogged him his first three starts, allowing one run and eight hits in eight innings. Of the 19 runs he allowed in his first three starts, 12 of them came in the first inning.

When he came off the mound after working around a hit and a walk in the first, Tomko was greeted by cheers from his fellow pitchers.

"It's been a struggle but today I actually felt like I knew what I was doing out there," Tomko said. "My stuff hasn't been great and once you have a couple of bad first innings in a row it starts playing on your mind."

Martinez and Batista clashed one batter after Martinez was hit in the shoulder blade by a 1-0 pitch. As Martinez threw a punch, Batista threw a ball at the Cardinals player but missed. Both benches quickly cleared.

Batista, backpedaling throughout the fracas, was herded into left field by Brenly.

Neither of the principals were willing to talk. Martinez dressed and left Busch Stadium as the game ended and Batista had a "no comment" for reporters. Brenly defended his pitcher.

"I really don't know what Batista is supposed to do to protect himself against a 240-pound charging bull who is supposed to leave the field immediately after he's retired," Brenly said.

Cardinals reliever Jeff Fassero was ejected after hitting Luis Gonzalez in the rib cage with two outs in the top of the ninth. Manager Tony La Russa was also ejected and was in a surly mood after the game, bristling when the first question dealt with the fight and ejections.

"I'm really disappointed," he said. "We just played a 1-0 game and that's the first thing? We'll talk about the B.S. later, let's talk about the baseball."

Fassero wasn't arguing the ejection.

"You guys saw the game, that's old baseball," Fassero said. "I play old baseball, I don't play this new style of baseball.

"I still believe in the old ways, settling scores for teams and stuff like that, protect your guys."

Drew went 0-for-3 in his debut coming off offseason surgery for patella tendinitis in his right knee.


  • Lyle Overbay was 0-for-2 for the Diamondbacks, ending his franchise rookie-record 12-game hitting streak. Overbay replaced Mark Grace at first base in the sixth inning. The streak was the second longest by a rookie in the major leagues, behind Rocco Baldelli's 13-game streak for the Devil Rays that ended Thursday.
  • Martinez is 14-for-35 (.400) during a nine-game hitting streak.
  • Cardinals leadoff hitter Fernando Vina was 1-for-4 and is in a 5-for-34 (.147) slump.
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
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