The Cardinals reached one of manager Tony La Russa's checklist milestones Tuesday night. They got to 10 games over .500 with a 3-2, 11-inning win over San Diego. And they got there in highly unusual fashion.
The offensive hero was a .223-hitting third baseman, Daniel Descalso, who from the seventh inning on becomes twice the hitter he normally is. Descalso, whose single won the game in the 11th inning, has driven in nine runs from the seventh inning on with the game tied or the Cardinals down a run.
"We call him D-Money," cracked La Russa.
The Cardinals won with a catcher, Tony Cruz, who started last season in Class A. Cruz got three hits in his first big-league game -- the first Cardinal to get three hits in his debut since third baseman Terry Pendleton in 1984.
"He caught well. He blocked balls," said La Russa. "He's at a nice level now, and he should get better."
La Russa inserted Cruz into the lineup on his second day in the majors to help Cruz get through his first case of nerves. Cruz had been summoned to replace catcher Gerald Laird, who suffered a broken right index finger on Sunday.
"This is a dream come true," said Cruz, 24, who grew up just a few miles from the Cardinals' spring training facility in Jupiter, Fla. "It's what you play for as a little kid."
The Cardinals also won with a starting pitcher, Kyle McClellan, who was a reliever for his first three big-league seasons. McClellan remained at 6-1 but didn't give up an earned run and allowed just two hits in six innings.
"And," said La Russa, "he deserves extra credit. He's pitching to a rookie catcher and he's got to run his own game."
The Cardinals also won with a closer, Eduardo Sanchez, who began last year in Class AA. And a left fielder, Lance Berkman, who hadn't played there in five years until recently. Berkman made a spectacular sno-cone diving catch at the foul line in the 11th inning.
"If that ball falls, who knows where it bounces?" said La Russa.
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