ST. LOUIS — Rick Ankiel has a simple message for St. Louis Cardinals fans.
“Don’t hold me to days like this,” he said.
Ankiel hit two home runs and drove in three runs, the latest power display by the former pitcher, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1 on Saturday.
Ankiel, who scored three times, hit the first pitch he saw in the first and seventh innings to right field, giving him three home runs since he was called up from Triple-A Memphis on Thursday.
After an embarrassing bout of wildness and an arm injury, the one-time phenom scrapped his pitching career during spring training in 2005. He capped his first game back in the majors, as an outfielder, with a three-run home run against San Diego on Thursday.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “Everyone is really happy to see him, but this is the big leagues and you need to perform and be productive. There’s a lot of good guys, but if they can’t play, pretty soon you get somebody else.”
The home crowd gave Ankiel a standing ovation and demanded a curtain call, as they did Thursday, after his first home run against the Dodgers. The second one was met with a quick doff of the cap, and the right fielder got another standing ovation as he jogged off the field after making two strong defensive plays in the eighth.
“I always believed in myself,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting out there, feeling comfortable and letting your talent take over.”
Ankiel also singled and scored in a three-run third to help the Cardinals win for the third time in four games.
“You know St. Louis is in a pennant race. They’re not just calling this kid up for a feel-good story,” Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe said. “I’m amazed at what he could do. I know I couldn’t stop pitching and become a major league hitter. To be able to do what he is doing is a phenomenal story.”
Braden Looper (10-9) gave up four hits in six innings to earn his third victory in four starts. The hit total was his lowest since giving up four on July 2 against Arizona.
Looper allowed a single and a double to start the fifth but stranded Nomar Garciaparra and Andre Ethier, who had two doubles, by retiring the next three batters. The Dodgers’ only run came with two outs in the sixth. James Loney singled and Luis Gonzalez drove him in with a double to right-center.
Looper’s performance, like Joel Pineiro’s seven shutout innings on Thursday, was overshadowed by Ankiel.
“He hit two home runs today,” Looper said. “He’s going to overshadow anybody. If he keeps hitting when I start, I don’t mind if he takes all the glory. I’ll take the win, he can take the press.”
The Cardinals took advantage of two errors by Rafael Furcal in the third. Adam Kennedy reached on the shortstop’s first miscue to open the inning and scored when Furcal misplayed Albert Pujols’ grounder. Jim Edmonds followed Pujols with a two-run single to score Aaron Miles and Ankiel.
Lowe (8-11) dropped his fifth consecutive decision and has not won since June 22 against Tampa Bay. He lasted six innings, giving up five runs, three earned, and seven hits.
“It’s beyond a long time for me, it’s been beyond a frustrating year,” Lowe said.
“You still have six weeks to hopefully turn something around and make something positive out of the year.”