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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pedro Alvarez mashed two home runs that traveled an estimated 831 feet Friday night.
 
It was a series of sprints by the burly Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman, however, that ignited a 12-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
 
Alvarez broke open a close game in the sixth by beating out a potential double play, followed it up with the fifth stolen base of his career then scored with a deft slide around St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina's tag that gave the Pirates the momentum they needed to pull away.
 
"I thought the stolen base was key," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He puts a lot of focus on running the bases and he's arguably one of our best baserunners when he's on."
 
It certainly looked like it, as Alvarez's outstretched left arm slid across the plate a split second before one of the game's best defensive catchers could nab him. The Cardinals imploded from there as Shelby Miller (0-1) continued to struggle against Pittsburgh.
 
Miller fell to 0-5 with a 5.92 ERA against the Pirates in his brief career after tying a career-high by allowing five runs in 5 1-3 innings. The right-hander is 16-5 with a 2.34 ERA in his 33 other major league appearances.
 
"It's not the park. It's not the team. I just pitched poorly today," Miller said. "I guess it just lines up that way where I don't pitch well when I face them."
 
Travis Ishikawa added his first major league home run in nearly two years for Pittsburgh. Gerrit Cole (1-0) gave up two runs in seven innings in his first start since losing the deciding Game 5 of the NL division series to St. Louis last October.
 
Six months removed from a taut NLDS that pushed the eventual NL champions to the brink of elimination, the Pirates sent an early message they have no plans of going away.
 
Cole is considered the ace in waiting after a stellar rookie season in which he was arguably Pittsburgh's best pitcher over the final six weeks. Eager to take the next step in his development, the 23-year-old kept the Cardinals in check by mixing a fastball that consistently reaches the upper 90s with improved offspeed stuff.
 
He also showcased some of his maturity, working out of a bases loaded situation in the fourth by getting Jhonny Peralta to fly out. His only mistake came in the fifth when Carpenter drilled a shot into the right field stands to pull the Cardinals to 3-2. Otherwise he teamed with catcher Russell Martin to keep St. Louis in check.
 
"I think it was just a really well-played ballgame on our part," Cole said. "I can't say enough about what Russ did behind the plate. Not sure there are any other catchers in the entire world that could handle what I threw at him tonight."
 
Pittsburgh's offense - which mustered all of 20 hits in 35 innings of a season-opening series against the Chicago Cubs - made sure it didn't stay close for long after pounding out 16 hits in eight innings against the NL Central favorites.
 
Alvarez began the year in a 1 for 15 slump but ended that with a home run to the gap in left-center for his first home run of the season. He added his second two innings later with a long drive to right-center that traveled an estimated 448 feet.
 
His hustle down the first-base line in the sixth allowed Pittsburgh's rally to continue and the Pirates pressed the advantage. Molina committed a rare error after Alvarez's slide, botching a potential rundown at third base when his throw hit Martin in the back and rolled into the stands. The miscue gave the Pirates a 5-2 lead and Pittsburgh poured it on in the late innings.
 
NOTES: Ishikawa's solo home run in the fourth was his first since May 15, 2012 while playing for the New York Yankees. ... The start of the game was delayed 1:05 by rain, the third straight game a Cardinals' game was delayed by weather. ... Injured Cardinals 2B Mark Ellis is starting baseball activities but it remains uncertain when he'll be ready to return from left knee tendinitis. Ellis went on the 15-day DL on March 27 and is eligible to return on April 11. ... The series continues on Saturday. RHP Joe Kelly will make his season debut for the Cardinals against Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00).
Friday, 04 April 2014 23:36
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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chris Heisey's single in the bottom of the ninth inning ended Cincinnati's record scoreless streak to open a season and sent the Reds to a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night following a long rain delay.
 
The Reds set a modern franchise record by failing to score in the first 17 innings of the season. Their previous worst was 13 scoreless innings in 1909 and 1934.
 
Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier opened the ninth with singles off Carlos Martinez (0-1). After a sacrifice, Brayan Pena was walked to load the bases and the pinch-hitting Heisey singled up the middle.
 
The Reds were the last team in the majors to score a run this season. Heisey's hit broke an 0 for 11 slump with runners in scoring position.
 
J.J. Hoover (1-0) pitched out of a threat in the ninth, getting Matt Adams on a called third strike with two runners aboard.
 
The NL Central rivals waited 2 hours, 40 minutes to get started. They wanted to get the game in because heavy rain was forecast for Thursday afternoon when they conclude their series.
 
The Reds promoted it as opening night, complete with pregame player introductions and postgame fireworks. The introductions were cancelled because of the long delay, and the fireworks were shot off as the grounds crew removed the tarp and prepared the field for the first pitch.
 
Neither starter had a problem because of the delay.
 
Left-hander Tony Cingrani gave up a pair of singles and two walks in seven innings. He spent the offseason working on his secondary pitches. Last year, he threw his fastball 81.7 percent of the time, the second-most by a starter in the majors, according to STATS LLC.
 
Michael Wacha allowed three hits in 6 2-3 innings. He got shortstop Zack Cozart to ground into a forceout with the bases loaded in the fourth.
 
Cozart saved a run with a diving catch in center field in the eighth, grabbing Matt Carpenter's sinking liner with a runner in scoring position.
 
The defending National League champions opened the season with a 1-0 win on Monday, when Yadier Molina's seventh-inning homer made the difference. It was the first time since 1953 that the Reds were shut out on opening day.
 
St. Louis hasn't started a season with back-to-back shutouts since 1963, when the Cardinals posted three consecutive shutouts.
 
NOTES: RH Lance Lynn starts for the Cardinals on Thursday. He beat the Reds three times last season. RH Homer Bailey, who missed time during spring training with a strained groin, starts for the Reds. ... Cardinals OF Jon Jay carries a 14-game hitting streak from last season. ... Joey Votto doubled in the first inning for his 1,000th career hit. ... Cingrani picked Adams off first base in the fifth inning. He led the Reds staff by picking off six runners last season. ... Reds manager Bryan Price said RH Jonathan Broxton could come off the DL during the series in St. Louis next week. He's recovering from surgery on his pitching forearm last August. Broxton would become the closer until Chapman returns. ... C Devin Mesoraco also could be activated off the DL in St. Louis. He's sidelined by a strained oblique.
Thursday, 03 April 2014 00:15
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Ryan Miller stopped 31 shots and T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk scored in a shootout in the St. Louis Blues' 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
 
St. Louis has 109 points, one fewer than Boston for the top spot in the NHL.
 
Miller, who earned his 29th career shutout, made a skate save against Vincent Lecavalier and a glove save on Claude Giroux in the shootout.
 
One of Miller's best saves came with 1:30 to go in overtime when he stretched out and denied Jakub Voracek's bid to slide the puck under his pads.
 
Emery earned his 16th career shutout and second this season.
 
Oshie, who scored on a backhand, is 9 for 12 in the shootout. Giroux is 5 for 10.
 
Both teams killed penalties in the final five minutes of regulation, with a high-sticking call to Giroux stretching into the first 36 seconds of overtime for Philadelphia. St. Louis penalty killers have allowed three goals on 36 chances the past 12 home games.
 
The Flyers played in St. Louis for the first time since the 2010-11 opener.
 
Miller foiled two breakaways in the opening minutes, one created when defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk collided. He made an outstanding left pad save on Michael Raffl to thwart a 2-on-1 break early in the second period.
 
Two Blues hit the goalpost in the second period, Jaden Schwartz in the opening minute and Pietrangelo in the final minute.
 
Notes: Flyers D Kimmo Timonen did not make the trip after taking a puck to the chin. Alex Gustafsson played for the first time since Feb. 27. ... The Blues tricked a fan between the second and third periods who was blindfolded at center ice and then shot several yards wide of the net, telling him he'd won $15,000. The fan did a celebratory belly flop on the ice before being told he'd been duped. ... The Blues' last 0-0 regulation game was March 22, 2012, at Los Angeles, a 1-0 shootout loss. ... The Flyers have been shut out four times.
 
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 23:20
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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Yadier Molina's homer broke a seventh-inning tie and drew another round of loud boos while he rounded the bases on Monday, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
 
The Reds were blanked on opening day for the first time since 1953, ending the second-longest streak of scoring in at least one run in season openers in major league history. The Phillies went 62 years without being blanked in an opener from 1911-72.
 
Adam Wainwright used his refined sinker to finally get the best of the Reds, who have hit him like no other team. Wainwright allowed three hits in seven innings, fanning nine.
 
St. Louis escaped a threat in the eighth. Trevor Rosenthal retired all three batters in the ninth, finishing a three-hitter for the defending National League champions.
 
Bryan Price lost his managing debut with Cincinnati, which opened the season with eight players on the disabled list, its most since 2007.
 
During pregame introductions, Molina got by far the loudest boos from the crowd of 43,134 - the second-largest for a regular-season game in Great American Ball Park history. Fans still haven't forgiven the five-time All Star catcher for a 2010 brawl at home plate with Brandon Phillips.
 
They were booing again after his first-pitch homer in the seventh, his second career off Johnny Cueto. It was one of only three hits off Cueto in seven innings.
 
The combination of Wainwright and Molina was enough.
 
Wainwright won 19 games and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting last season, when he had his biggest trouble with the Reds. He went 1-3 in four starts with a 7.77 ERA against Cincinnati, getting knocked around so much that he called it a "head-scratcher."
 
Wainwright (1-0) refined a sinker in spring training and was in control on a breezy, 64-degree afternoon. He fanned new Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton four times.
 
The Reds' best chance came in the eighth, when the Cardinals committed two errors. Phillips became the first Reds runner to reached third base, but was caught in a rundown on Jay Bruce's grounder. Carlos Martinez fanned Todd Frazier for the final out, stranding a runner at third.
 
Cueto's third straight opening-day start was a reminder that it's a matter of staying healthy. He was on the disabled list three times last season, limited to 11 starts. He changed his delivery slightly to try to avoid injury, and was on the mark on opening day until Molina connected.
 
There were no close plays that merited replays.
 
One noticeable change: Price will do more defensive shifting. When lefty Matt Adams came to bat, Frazier moved from third base to the second baseman's normal position while Phillips moved into short right field. Adams went the other way, getting a single and a double in his first two at-bats - the only hits off Cueto (0-1) through six innings.
 
NOTES: Cincinnati's last shutout loss on opening day was a 2-0 loss to the Milwaukee Braves. ... Former Reds SS Barry Larkin and Dave Concepcion threw ceremonial pitches. ... Cueto was hit on the glove hand/wrist by Matt Carpenter's comebacker on his fifth pitch of the game. A trainer checked him, and he made a few practice throws. ... Hits king Pete Rose attended the game. ... The teams are off on Tuesday. Michael Wacha starts for St. Louis on Wednesday night against LH Tony Cingrani.
Monday, 31 March 2014 22:26
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Florida had not been to the Final Four since all those future first-round draft picks were in Gainesville. Wisconsin and coach Bo Ryan had never been.

Connecticut wasn't allowed to play in the NCAA tournament a year ago, and Kentucky supposedly had no shot at getting to North Texas after a midseason swoon.

Unlike the past few years, there will be no upstarts or Cinderella in the Final Four.

These are the big boys all right, but each one has a big chip on their shoulders.

"In down times, what you do is you bond together as brothers," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "And you hold that fist up."

Billy Donovan won a pair of national titles at Florida with Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford, all top-10 NBA picks in the 2007 NBA draft. After that second title, he accepted the head coaching job with the NBA's Orlando Magic, then changed his mind after the introductory news conference.

Donovan continued to produce winning teams in Gainesville, but the biggest wins eluded the Gators. They lost in the regional final each of the past three seasons.

That changed when the ferocious Gators (36-2) rode their chomping defense through a 30-game winning streak capped by Saturday's 62-52 win over bracket darling Dayton.

"We didn't start off the exact way that we should have, but coach Donovan continued to remind us and humble us and help us see that, in order to get where we want to get to, the end goal, we have to continue to chase greatness every single day and stay in the moment," Florida forward Patric Young said.

To win another title, the Gators will have to go through the last two teams to beat them this season (UConn and Wisconsin) or their biggest SEC rival (Kentucky).

The Huskies won the 2011 national title with coach Jim Calhoun and one-man show Kemba Walker.

Things went sour in Storrs after that. Calhoun retired in 2012 and UConn was barred from the NCAA tournament last season for failing to meet the NCAA's academic progress measure.

UConn's upperclassmen decided to stick it out instead of transferring and put together another magical bracket run behind another do-it-all-player, former Walker understudy Shabazz Napier. With their 60-54 win over Michigan State on Sunday, the Huskies (30-8) became the first No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

UConn beat Florida 65-64 way back on Dec. 2, the Gators' last loss this season.

"We play a great Florida team and we're going to be well prepared, because I know about these guys' heart, and that's what got us through," Ollie said.

Then there's Bo.

Wisconsin's tell-it-like-it-is coach had been a regular at the Final Four, taking his father, Butch, to every one since 1976 as a birthday gift.

Bo had a hard time getting there with his team, though, winning over 700 games, playing in the NCAA tournament 13 straight years and reaching the Sweet 16 six times - and not one trip to the Final Four.

Bo and the Badgers (30-7) get their chance now after pulling out an emotional 64-63 win over top-seeded Arizona in the West Regional final on Saturday, which would have been Butch Ryan's 90th birthday.

"I can remember some of the great teams that he had of kids and their first championships and how they acted and just the joy," Ryan said. "These guys have had some others, but that's all I wanted to see."

Rounding out this foursome could be the most fearsome bunch of the bracket.

Kentucky won the 2012 national championship behind coach John Calipari's get-the-best-players-no-matter-how-long-they-stay philosophy. Cal brought in another heralded group of one-and-doners and they were touted as the team to beat, ranked No. 1 in the preseason.

After a string of losses, including three in five games, the kid Cats were out of the polls and supposedly out of contention.

Well, look at them now.

Showcasing their talent and depth, the Wildcats (28-10) are playing with a cohesiveness and confidence that wasn't there earlier in the season, racing into the Final Four after pulling out a last-second victory over Michigan.

"I can't believe it; we went through so much," said Kentucky's Aaron Harrison, who hit a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in the 75-72 win over the Wolverines. "We went through a lot of ups and downs, and we're blessed to be going to the Final Four."

They are not alone.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Monday, 31 March 2014 07:30
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After a brutal winter of arctic blasts and blustery snowstorms, baseball is ready to heat up Monday with its first full slate of games this season.

David Ortiz and the World Series champion Boston Red Sox begin their title defense in Baltimore against home run king Chris Davis and the AL East rival Orioles. Robinson Cano makes his Seattle Mariners debut, looking to live up to a huge contract - just like Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.

Behind the scenes, umpires at all six replay stations in New York will be at the ready for the first time in baseball history.

"We recognize fully that last year is behind us, and everyone is looking forward to (Monday) and beyond," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

The start of Derek Jeter's retirement tour will wait one more day. The New York Yankees, with baseball's oldest roster, will face the youngest on Tuesday night in Houston.

By the time Detroit's Justin Verlander throws a pitch at 1:08 p.m. EDT in the first of 13 games Monday, the Dodgers will already have played openers on two continents and put $215 million ace Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list.

Los Angeles swept a pair Down Under from the Diamondbacks on March 22-23, with Kershaw winning the first regular-season major league game in Australia before an upper back muscle acted up. The Dodgers then played at San Diego in the North American opener Sunday night.

Still, ballparks around country will be buzzing with optimistic fans and, other than in Oakland, sunny skies and seasonably warm temperatures are expected to provide a wonderful backdrop - what a relief! - for the days' festivities.

"Should be a pretty good day for a ballgame," said Richard Bann, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center.

The Pittsburgh Pirates certainly will be celebrating their first winning season and trip to the playoffs since 1992, and they'll have help handing out some hardware from two key members of that team: Barry Bonds and Jim Leyland.

Bonds, the `92 NL MVP, will be on hand to honor 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen. The recently retired Leyland, a two-time Manager of the Year with Pittsburgh, is going to present Clint Hurdle with his Manager of the Year award for guiding the Pirates to a 94-68 record and wild-card berth.

The son of Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, who died in February, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Kiner will be honored in New York, too, where the Mets host Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals, a World Series favorite once again. Dillon Gee will make his first opening day start after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio throws out the ceremonial first pitch.

In Texas, Tanner Scheppers, a converted setup man, will be the first pitcher to make his first major league start in a season opener since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 for the Dodgers. Scheppers will have new slugger Prince Fielder at first base when the Rangers host Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies in an interleague game.

Scheppers got the nod because major league strikeout leader Yu Darvish is on the disabled list with a sore neck.

Atlanta's Kris Medlen, Oakland's Jarrod Parker and Arizona's Patrick Corbin are out, too. While Darvish may miss only one start, Medlen, Parker and Corbin are out for the season after having Tommy John surgery.

One pitcher who escaped serious injury is Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. He's sidelined at least a month more after being hit in the forehead by a line drive during spring training.

Not only will Cincinnati be without Chapman when it opens against NL Central rival St. Louis for just the second time in 20 years, the Reds have eight players on the DL - a major league high heading into the season. Texas is right behind with seven.

The Milwaukee Brewers get back star slugger Ryan Braun for their home opener against the Braves. Braun is returning from a 65-game suspension he accepted last season for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.

Braun will take his position on the lush new grass at Miller Park, a field grown under heat lamps imported from Europe because the winter temperatures in Wisconsin were too cold - even with the roof closed.

"But regardless of what Mother Nature gave us here, we're going to have it ready for opening day," said Michael Boettcher, the team's director of grounds.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Monday, 31 March 2014 07:29
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   A couple of injuries mean there's room on the Cardinal's 25 man roster for a fan favorite.  Infielder Pete Kozma made the Opening Day squad after the team placed infielder Mark Ellis and pitchers Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte on the 15 day disabled list.  
   Ellis is out with tendinitis in his left knee.  His move is retroactive to March 27th.  The moves for both Garcia, who's still nursing his left shoulder, and Motte, out with a right elbow injury, are retroactive to March 21st.  The Cardinals announced the Opening Day roster Sunday.  
   The Cardinals will face Cincinnati in Monday's 2014 season opener at Great American Ballpark. Redbird ace Adam Wainwright will face Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto. First pitch is at 3:10 p.m.
 
*     *     *
 
The Cardinals 25-man Opening Day roster is as follows:
 
PITCHERS (12): Keith Butler-RHP, Randy Choate-LHP, Joe Kelly-RHP, Lance Lynn-RHP, Seth Maness-RHP, Carlos Martinez-RHP, Shelby Miller-RHP, Pat Neshek-RHP, Trevor Rosenthal-RHP, Kevin Siegrist-LHP, Michael Wacha-RHP, Adam Wainwright-RHP;
 
CATCHERS (2): Tony Cruz, Yadier Molina;
 
INFIELDERS (6): Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, Jhonny Peralta, Kolten Wong;
 
OUTFIELDERS (5): Peter Bourjos, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Shane Robinson;
 
DISABLED LIST (3): Mark Ellis, Jaime Garcia, Jason Motte.
 
 
 
Monday, 31 March 2014 00:46
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JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Michael Wacha looked sharp in his final spring start Thursday, giving up a run in five innings of the St. Louis Cardinals' 6-4 loss to the Miami Marlins.
 
Wacha gave up four hits and struck out six. He is scheduled to start the Cardinals' second game of the season, on Tuesday at Cincinnati. He will start the home opener in St. Louis on April 7.
 
Wacha did struggle in the fifth. Derek Dietrich led off with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on Marcell Ozuna's single and scored on Brian Bogusevic's sacrifice fly to right.
 
"It got a little away from me in that last inning, but overall I was pretty happy with it," Wacha said.
 
Marlins infielder Ed Lucas broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch. His injury should make room for Donovan Solano, who was sent to Triple-A New Orleans earlier in the day.
 
The Marlins won all six games against the Cardinals this spring. After losing 100 games last season, they finished 2014 Grapefruit League play at 18-11-2.
 
"It doesn't matter what it is, if it's a pickup game or a spring training game - winning is winning," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "We all like to win. It feels good for everybody."
 
The Cardinals were 11-13-2.
 
STARTING TIME:
 
Cardinals: Shelby Miller will remain in Jupiter when the Cardinals head north on Friday. Miller will pitch in a minor league game on Saturday before rejoining the club. He is scheduled to start the Cardinals' fourth game of the season at Pittsburgh.
 
Marlins: Redmond named Tom Koehler as the club's fifth start, beating out Brad Hand, who will head to the bullpen. The Marlins will have a starting rotation of Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Koehler.
 
TRAINER'S ROOM
 
Cardinals: Reliever Jason Motte will face minor league hitters on Saturday. He is working his way back from elbow-ligament replacement surgery and could be ready for major league action by the end of April. ... Jaime Garcia is expected to throw another bullpen in the next couple days. No time frame has been set for his return.
 
Marlins: Though the team doesn't expect to make an official decision until Sunday, Redmond said he expects second baseman Rafael Furcal to begin the season on the disabled list. A sore hamstring has limited Furcal to 18 spring training at-bats.
 
MARLIN MOVES
 
Miami reassigned pitcher Henry Rodriguez to the minor leagues. Rodriguez, 5-7 with a 4.24 ERA in a five-year career that includes stints with Oakland, Washington and the Cubs, signed as a free agent in the offseason. Rodriguez has a clause in his contract allowing him to opt out of a minor league assignment. The 27-year-old righty struck out 14 and allowed six runs in nine Grapefruit League innings.
 
The Marlins also optioned outfielder Jake Marisnick to New Orleans. They reassigned pitcher Chris Hatcher, outfielder Matt Angle and infielders Juan Diaz and Austin Nola to the minor leagues.
 
SCORE THIS
 
The Cardinals employed a defensive shift against left-handed hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia that moved third baseman Matt Carpenter into short right field, leaving shortstop Jhonny Peralta as the lone defender on the left side of the infield. Saltalamacchia hit the ball to the perfectly positioned Carpenter, who threw on to first for an unconventional 5-3 put out.
 
ATTENDANCE UP
 
The Cardinals averaged 6,733 fans for their 14 home games at Roger Dean Stadium, an increase of more than 500 fans per game from last season. It's the largest average attendance in the Grapefruit League for St. Louis since 2010. The Marlins averaged 4,532 fans - which is more than 300 per game more than last spring.
Thursday, 27 March 2014 23:24
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