DENVER -- Rick Ankiel was throwing strikes again.
Only this time it wasn't from the mound, but from deep center.
Ankiel threw out two runners at third and Braden Looper pitched into the ninth inning in the longest outing of his career, helping the St. Louis Cardinals hold on for a 6-5 win over the slumping Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
Ankiel, once a promising pitching prospect for the Cardinals, was showing off his laser of a left arm all evening.
He nailed Willy Taveras in the first inning as Taveras tried to tag up from second.
But that was merely a warm-up act. In the eighth, Ankiel picked up the ball off the warning track and cut down Omar Quintanilla at third as he tried to stretch a double into a triple.
The Cardinals clubhouse went bonkers, jumping out of the dugout to congratulate him as he made his way in.
Even after the game, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was still in awe over Ankiel's throws.
"I don't believe he did it," La Russa said. "I want to see the replays. I can't remember a dugout getting a bigger kick out of something. Who could believe it?"
Ankiel was more pleased with his throws than his sixth home run of the season, a solo shot in the eighth.
"I was pumped," Ankiel said of his first two outfield assists of the season.
Not nearly as pumped as Looper, though.
"That was outstanding," Looper said. "The second throw was the best one I've seen. It was pretty amazing he could throw it from there, for sure."
Looper (5-1) was two outs away from his first career complete game, and then was pulled after back-to-back singles by Todd Helton and pinch hitter Ryan Spilborghs.
Ryan Franklin picked up his first save of the season, but it didn't come easy. After striking out Brad Hawpe, Franklin gave up a two-run double to Chris Iannetta and a run-scoring double to Clint Barmes before getting Jeff Baker to fly out to Ankiel.
"It was pretty nerve-racking," said Looper, who allowed four runs and 10 hits in 8 1/3 innings. "I had the game in hand and gave up a couple of base hits there in the ninth and almost end up losing it."
Looper also was pretty handy with the bat, going 2-for-3 to raise his average to a team-leading .385.
"He still looks bad up there, but he gets it done," Franklin said. "Impressive."
That could describe Albert Pujols' streak as well, as he's reached base with either a hit, walk or hit by pitch in 34 consecutive games after going 1-for-5 with a double.
The Elias Sports Bureau said Pujols' string is the longest in the majors to start a season since 1999 when Derek Jeter reached in 53 consecutive contests. Luis Gonzalez (35) and Jim Thome (37) also had long streaks to begin that season.
Mark Redman (2-3) had another shaky outing, getting yanked early after surrendering five runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Redman allowed 10 runs in the first inning during his last start against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26, before settling down and finishing with five scoreless frames.
All five of the Cardinals' runs off Redman came with two outs.
"It's not what we need," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, whose team has now dropped 13 of the last 16. "You like to see a guy like Mark get it done. The game is hard for us right now. There's no lack of effort. We're just coming up short."
Ankiel flamed out as a pitcher after he struggled with control problems, officially retiring from the mound in March 2005 to concentrate on becoming an outfielder.
He still gets to throw strikes -- just from farther away.
"You have to tip your hat and say, 'Wow. Wow,'" Hurdle said.
Cardinals OF Ryan Ludwick was 4-for-4 with two doubles. ... Iannetta finished with two hits, including his third homer of the season. ... Rockies right-hander Kip Wells underwent a four-hour surgery Tuesday to remove blood clots in his right hand. Wells' condition will be re-evaluated Wednesday. No date has been set for his return. ... Cardinals 3B Troy Glaus broke out of an 0-for-21 slump with a single in the third.