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Ray Lankford hits PH HR in his Last AB


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Jeff Bennett waits for a new ball as Ray Lankford rounds the bases after his two-run homer. (Tom Gannam/AP)


ST. LOUIS -- One of the greatest Cardinals and one of the greatest Cardinals teams received fitting send-offs on Sunday afternoon. Ray Lankford hit a two-run pinch-homer as St. Louis beat Milwaukee, 9-4, to close out the Cards' best regular season in 60 years.


Making possibly his final appearance at Busch Stadium, Lankford pinch-hit for pitcher Danny Haren with one out and a runner on first in the sixth inning. He lined a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right field, thrilling the crowd of 39,849, who demanded a curtain call. For Lankford, it was career homer No. 123 at Busch, the most of any player in the stadium's history.


"It was great," said Lankford, who acknowledged that he has considered retiring after the season. "Coming off the bench is always tough. I was just trying to get a ball I could handle, and I hit it out. To get a standing 'O' was great."


Lankford was out of baseball in 2003, after a frustrating and injury-shortened 2002 season. He worked out over the offseason, though, and got himself into playing shape. The veteran dazzled Cardinals staff in Spring Training, earning the regular left-field job.


However, hamstring and wrist injuries slowed Lankford during this season, as he finished the year with exactly 200 at-bats. He is unlikely to appear on the playoff roster, so if he retires, he has probably played his last game at Busch.


"When I went into Spring Training, I was feeling great," he said. "My legs, my whole body. My back, my hamstrings, it just felt really good. Somewhere down the line, about a month and a half into the season, I just hit a brick wall.


"It's just been nagging, little stuff ever since. When I was in camp, I felt like I was 27 again. But that's the thing about this game. You can be feeling good, but it's a grind."


Cards Recap


ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rounding the bases, the thought crossed Ray Lankford's mind that he just launched a nice parting shot.


The seldom-used outfielder hit a two-run pinch-hit homer in what could've been his final game with St. Louis, helping the Cardinals finish the regular season on a strong note with a 9-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.


``It might be my last regular-season game, period,'' Lankford said. ``I thought about all of that.


``It was great just to go up there and hear the fans cheering for me.''

Lankford is Busch Stadium's career home run leader with 123 in 14 seasons and was the opening day left fielder, but he's been used sparingly for most of the second half of the season. He missed 36 games with a sprained right wrist and hasn't started since Sept. 11, making it highly unlikely he'll make the postseason roster.


Lankford, 37, indicated he'll probably retire. The fans seemed to sense it, demanding a curtain call after the homer.


``You love the game, but it gets frustrating,'' Lankford said. ``It's no fun being hurt and not being able to go out and play.''


Another Game Recap


Most of you dont care probably but I do. What a great sendoff.. I appreciate everything Ray did in STL.. :notworthy

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