Jul. 19--The familiar butterflies started fluttering about the time Yadier Molina's tie-breaking single in the eighth inning found a hole in the San Diego infield. Told if there was a save to get it was all his, Cardinals reliever Jason Isringhausen readied for his return to the ninth inning.
     Then he watched as his teammates added to Molina's winner.
     By the time Isringhausen reached the mound to get the final three outs of an 11-7 victory Friday at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals' reliever closed a win the bullpen had already saved.
     Punctuated by Isringhausen's scoreless ninth, five arms from the Cardinals' bullpen combined to hold San Diego to one run in six innings. Molina rewarded the relievers when he poked a two-run single to right field off Padres reliever Heath Bell and broke a 7-7 tie, igniting a four-run rally. The win put the Cardinals three games back of the division-leading Chicago Cubs, who lost.
     The score kept Isringhausen from getting his first save since May 5.
     "If there was a save situation, they said I was going to have it, and I wanted to pitch in that save situation," Isringhausen said. "I got those butterflies like I always do. ... I'm happy to get the win, and it's good that we scored those runs. The bullpen has taken a lot of the heat here recently, and it was there to pick up the team."
     With starter Braden Looper gone after allowing six runs and not getting an out in the fourth inning, Brad Thompson began a parade of Cardinals relievers. The bullpen stalled San Diego long enough for the offense to rally three times -- twice to tie the game, once to win it.
     Just as San Diego's early runs were the result of broken plays by the Cardinals, the Cardinals' decisive runs were the result of a failure by San Diego. The Padres called Bell to close the seventh and handle the eighth with a tie score. The righthander was 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his 24 previous appearances. He got the first out of the eighth.
     Five of the next six hitters reached base safely.
     That included an infield hit that should have been the second out of the inning. Rick Ankiel, who tied the game with his 22nd homer of the season, chopped a ground ball to second base. Edgar Gonzalez could not convert the out because nobody covered first before Ankiel got there.
     The next batter, Molina, jabbed a breaking ball on the outside edge of the plate the other way to score Albert Pujols and Troy Glaus and put the Cardinals ahead. Chris Duncan and Aaron Miles followed with RBI singles to add the cushion.
     "I think he's immune to pressure," manager Tony La Russa said of Molina. "Braden had a bummy day. Today, we picked him up."
     Neither starter would factor in the decision as Looper couldn't escape the fourth inning and Greg Maddux couldn't avoid revisiting his past.
     The four-time Cy Young Award honoree and winner of 350 career games has not won in 13 starts. The winless streak ties a career high for Maddux, one he set back in 1990 as a member of the Cubs. He exited Friday having blown a three-run lead with one pitch. Ryan Ludwick mashed a three-run shot in the fourth inning -- his 22nd homer of the season -- to tie the score 6-6 and knock out Maddux.
     Looper's ending came more swiftly, greased by errors.
     The righthander, who left pitches up all game, escaped significant damage in the first inning, allowed a solo homer to Khalil Greene in the second, and two more runs in the third. In the fourth, things got really wacky.
     Two Cardinals throwing errors on Maddux's sacrifice bunt attempt quickly resulted in three runs and a 6-3 lead for San Diego. First, Molina wasn't satisfied with the easy out first but threw wild on his attempt to get the runner at third base. Second, Pujols cut off the throw back home and threw quickly toward second to try and catch Maddux. But Pujols' throw was wide of the base and into center. Maddux trotted into third.
     Jody Gerut deposited the next pitch for a two-run homer.
     It was Looper's last pitch.
     "The job is to come in there, hold the game where it is right there," said Thompson, who pitched 2 1/3 innings. "Hold the game. You've got to go out there and just slow everything down and give the offense a chance."
     The one run given up by the Cardinals' bullpen came on Brian Giles' single in the sixth inning off Ron Villone. Giles' hit snapped a 6-6 tie, but only until Ankiel answered. On the 12th-pitch of his at-bat against reliever Joe Thatcher, Ankiel drilled his 22nd home run and tied the score again, 7-7. That's where the score stood when Isringhausen started warming up in the eighth.
     Removed from the closer role after a series of blown saves, Isringhausen was then placed on the disabled list to get a cut in his hand and his confidence healed. He hasn't had a defined role since returning, pitching for a chance to reclaim his role.
     Friday was the first time he was warmed up for a save.
     "He was going to give me a chance to get a save, and that's a good sign," Isringhausen siad. "We just scored too many runs after that. That's good. So we'll go from there."
     dgoold@post-dispatch.com -- 314-340-8285

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