Cardinals 2, Expos 1
Stephenson pitched a four-hitter for his first complete game since Aug. 5, 2000, and beat Livan Hernandez, who threw a five-hitter, in a game that took just 2 hours, 4 minutes.
“This is unbelievable,” Stephenson said. “I wanted them to score runs so bad in the top of the ninth so that I could have a chance to go out there and win, because most guys don’t get to go out for the 10th.”
Rolen was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, including a home run in the second inning.
“He’s the story of the night, without question,” Rolen said. “He threw the ball great, and we haven’t snuck a lot of those wins out, so it was good for the team to get a win in that way. We’ve won some 9-8 games but not many 2-1 games this year.”
Stephenson (5-10) made his first start since July 17 and struck out four and walked none. His previous two appearances were in relief, and he was 0-5 with a 5.91 ERA in his previous six starts.
“I just went out there and had a clear mind today, and when you go out there like that you’re going one pitch at a time, one hitter at a time until, hopefully, you get to go deep in the game,” Stephenson said.
Hernandez (10-7) was 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA in his five previous starts in July, pitched his third complete game this month.
“I’m not frustrated,” he said. “I pitched well. The guys played well behind me. They just got two hits back-to-back in the ninth. If I’d win every night, I’d end up with 35 wins.”
After striking out twice while going hitless in his first three at-bats, Albert Pujols singled with one out in the ninth to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. Pujols advanced to third on Tino Martinez’s single before scoring the go-ahead run on Rolen’s fly.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be played, right there,” Rolen said. “That’s a good sharp ballgame. Under two and a half hours is a good pace of any game.”
Rolen gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead with his 22nd homer on a 2-2 pitch from Hernandez with one out in the second.
St. Louis might have gotten more if not for a fine defensive play started by Hernandez. Edgar Renteria singled and Kerry Robinson hit a hard liner back at Hernandez, who stabbed his glove down to spear the drive and quickly threw the ball to first baseman Wil Cordero for an inning-ending double play.
Stephenson faced four over the minimum, retiring his last 14 batters following Carroll’s one-out single in the fifth.
“I was trying to just do one hitter at a time,” Stephenson said. “My team did an awesome job behind me.”
Hernandez was perfect in the first, third, fourth, sixth and eighth innings. He retired 15 of 16 between Renteria’s single and Rolen’s two-out double in the seventh.
“It was just a tremendous performance on his part, it’s just too bad he has to walk away with a loss,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said.
Expos second baseman Jose Vidro returned to the lineup after missing five of six starts because of a strained right knee. Vidro, batting fifth for the firsttime this season behind Vladimir Guerrero, went 0-for-3.
The Cardinals’ previous shortest game this season was 2:05 in a 2-0 win over Chicago on May 19. Montreal played a game in 2:03 in a 5-1 loss in Florida on May 26. … Pujols is hitting .442 (23-for-52) over the course of his streak. … St. Louis activated 2B Miguel Cairo from the 15-day DL earlier in the day. Cairo missed 35 games with a broken bone in his left pinkie. … Vidro has batted second 39 times this season, third 38 times, and cleanup 15 times. … Guerrero dropped Renteria’s shallow fly to right in the fifth for atwo-base error.