Cincinnati — Barry Larkin dropped his bat and broke into a huge, incredulous smile. The Cincinnati Reds' most accomplished player couldn't believe what he had done.
Larkin came to the plate for the first time in more than three weeks and delivered a pinch-hit, two-run homer on his first swing, giving the Reds a 6-5 victory Tuesday night over the St. Louis Cardinals.
"That was a lucky shot tonight," Larkin conceded after taking a rare postgame curtain call.
The Reds received their second game-ending homer in two nights because the Cardinals' bullpen failed to hold a one-run lead once again. It helped that Larkin failed in his pregame politicking.
The 39-year-old shortstop had been on the disabled list since April 14 with a strained calf and was activated before the game. He tried to talk his way into the lineup, but manager Bob Boone wasn't sure Larkin could make it through an entire game.
Boone was saving Larkin for the right spot.
"He looked down at me a couple of times earlier where I thought he might have made a double-switch, but I guess he knew what would happen in the ninth," Larkin said.
Larkin got his chance against one of the NL's worst bullpens. With closer Jason Isringhausen recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, St. Louis has relied on top-notch starting pitching and the league's best defense.
In the last two games, it hasn't been enough.
The Cardinals arrived at Great American Ball Park with a seven-game winning streak, but Aaron Boone snapped it with a solo shot off Dustin Hermanson in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 win Monday night.
A day later, Kiko Calero (1-1) failed to hold a 5-4 lead. He gave up a one-out single to Juan Castro, then left his second pitch to Larkin up and over the plate.
While waiting for Isringhausen, the Cardinals have blown nine of their 14 save chances, the main reason they're 2-9 in one-run games.
Mets 3, Dodgers 2
New York -- Tony Clark and Vance Wilson hit consecutive homers in the fourth inning as the grudge match between the Mets and Dodgers failed to materialize. During a March 12 exhibition, Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota hit the Mets' Mike Piazza with a pitch, starting a wild brawl that got the players suspended for the first four games of the season. There was extra security Tuesday night, but Piazza didn't play after having a mole removed, and Mota didn't get into the game.
Expos 4, Padres 2
Montreal -- Wil Cordero hit a three-run homer, and Livan Hernandez pitched into the eighth inning to lead the Expos, who drew just 5,841 fans after returning from a 3-3 road trip.
Giants 4, Marlins 2
Miami -- Benito Santiago's two-run homer broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth, and Barry Bonds hit his 10th homer for the Giants. Santiago's fourth homer of the season came off reliever Armando Almanza (3-1).
Braves 3, Rockies 2
Atlanta -- Andruw Jones hit a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning as the Braves won for the 17th time in 20 games. John Smoltz pitched a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 13th save in 14 chances. The Braves have won 65 straight games in which he has pitched.
Astros 10, Pirates 9
Houston -- Jeff Bagwell's RBI single capped Houston's six-run rally in the eighth inning. Lance Berkman hit a solo home run, and Morgan Ensberg added a three-run pinch-hit homer for the Astros.
Brewers 9, Cubs 6
Chicago -- Eddie Perez had five RBIs, and John Vander Wal singled in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning to lift the Brewers in a game delayed when the Wrigley Field lights dimmed. Perez's three-run homer in the eighth tied it at 6. Corey Patterson hit a three-run homer and had four RBIs for the Cubs.
D'backs 6, Phillies 5
Phoenix -- Danny Bautista's sacrifice fly scored Steve Finley in the ninth inning, and Arizona overcame Jim Thome's two home runs to beat Philadelphia.