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Updated: Sunday, August 7, 2005 6:37 PM EDT



  R H E  
Braves 3 6 0 WP: King (3-2)
LP: Reitsma (3-3)  
Cardinals 5 9 0
Eckstein's grand slam caps comeback win over Braves

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- A series with playoff-like intensity ended with a most unlikely hit by David Eckstein .

The light-hitting Eckstein smacked a grand slam off Chris Reitsma with one out in the bottom of the ninth as the St. Louis Cardinals rallied past the Atlanta Braves , 5-3, in the rubber game between division leaders.

The Cardinals trailed, 3-1, before Reitsma (3-3) allowed back-to-back singles to Abraham Nunez and So Taguchi to begin the bottom of the ninth. Pinch hitter Hector Luna followed with a grounder off Reitsma's glove that second baseman Marcus Giles was unable to handle, loading the bases.

"You tell your pitchers not to touch a ball like that because it's a routine double play and that's exactly what happened," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He deflected it and we lost two outs just like that, and the ballgame."

"It was just a weird inning," Reitsma said. "If I don't don't touch that ball maybe it's a double play."

Pinch hitter Scott Seabol popped out for the first out, but the All-Star Eckstein lined Reitsma's 1-0 offering over the wall in left field for his fifth homer of the season and fourth career grand slam.

"His ball moves so much, I was very fortunate the count went to 1-0 and hopefully I got something up," Eckstein said. "I didn't even watch it. You never know, so I definitely run hard just in case in hits off the wall. I will never have the opportunity to just sit there and watch one because I don't have that type of bat."

"I was trying to go down with a sinker to try to get a double play and left it in the middle," Reitsma said. "It was a bad pitch and he did with it what hitters are supposed to do."

Ray King (3-2) got the final out in the top of the ninth to pick up the win.

Reitsma wasted a brilliant outing by Braves starter Jorge Sosa , who allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings. Sosa, who is 4-0 in eight starts since a loss to Florida on June 23, had outpitched St. Louis counterpart Chris Carpenter , who allowed two runs and four hits in eight frames.

Carpenter had been 8-0 with a 0.83 ERA in nine starts since a 4-0 setback to Boston on June 8, yielding just two runs in 43 2/3 innings in five home starts over that span.

"It was a great win for us," Carpenter said. "We battled all game long and obviously Eckstein is the hero coming up with the big hit. All year long I try to go out and give my team a chance to win. I threw the ball well today. "

The All-Star Carpenter surrendered a one-out solo homer to Kelly Johnson in the first inning and a leadoff shot to Jeff Francoeur in the second but blanked the Braves thereafter, giving his team a chance. Carpenter finished with 10 strikeouts and just two walks.

When asked if the grand slam was "saving the best for last," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "Our starting pitcher was part of that best. That's one of the reasons I admire this club so much, it was a difficult day and we were going to play nine until the end, and once in a while you get a miracle like this. When you compete hard, great things happen."

Albert Pujols launched his 31st homer of the season, a solo shot with two outs in the eighth against Kyle Farnsworth , to get the Cardinals on the board. John Foster issued a walk to Jim Edmonds before Reitsma temporarily preserved the lead by inducing Mark Grudzielanek to ground out.

"At the end of the day, if you get a win, it doesn't matter how you win," Pujols said. "I was excited for Eck and Carp. He pitched a great game."

The Braves added an insurance run against closer Jason Isringhausen in the ninth when Francoeur plated Giles with a two-out double.

Giles extended hit hitting streak to 12 games with his ninth-inning single and is batting .451(23-51) during the streak.

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