Astros 10, Cardinals 5

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—The Houston Astros turned to their bullpen to quiet the St. Louis bats.

After starter Jared Fernandez allowed four runs in the first inning, Brandon Duckworth and four other relievers gave up just one run the rest of the way and Houston beat the Cardinals 10-5 on Monday night.

“They did an outstanding job against a tough-hitting ballclub,” Houston manager Jimy Williams said. “It was a good team victory. A lot of people contributed.”

Richard Hidalgo drove in four runs with a three-run homer and an eighth-inning sacrifice fly that put the Astros on top for good. Craig Biggio scored three runs and had three doubles, including a two-out, three-run hit later in the eighth.

But it was the bullpen, which had surrendered 10 runs in 16 1-3 innings prior to Monday, that kept Houston in the game, shutting down the Cardinals, who came in batting an NL-best .311, over the final seven innings.

Duckworth relieved Fernandez in the first and pitched 3 2-3 innings, giving up just a second-inning run.

“To me, (Duckworth) gets our game ball,” Biggio said. “He pitched great against their lineup and gave us a chance to win.”

Dan Miceli followed Duckworth with two scoreless innings. Then Ricky Stone (1-0), Brad Lidge and Octavio Dotel each pitched a shutout inning.

The teams combined to send 16 batters to the plate in a 44-minute first inning, as hitters were apparently unbothered by the cold. The temperature, a breezy 52 degrees at the start, dropped into the 40s by the end of the game.

Jeff Bagwell doubled home Biggio, and Hidalgo hit a two-out homer over the left-center field wall off Woody Williams to put Houston up 4-0.

Fernandez, a knuckleballer subbing for the injured Andy Pettitte, came into the game with a 27.00 ERA—and it doubled to 54.00 in 1-3 of an inning.

Fernandez walked three of the first five hitters, including a bases-loaded walk to Jim Edmonds that gave St. Louis its first run. A single by Scott Rolen, a sacrifice fly by Edgar Renteria and a single by Reggie Sanders tied it at 4.

St. Louis went ahead in the second on consecutive singles by Ray Lankford, Albert Pujols and Edmonds off Duckworth. But the Cardinals managed just three hits after the second—two singles by Renteria and one by Rolen.

The Astros tied it in the seventh on Adam Everett’s sacrifice fly off reliever Mike Lincoln (2-1), who allowed five runs in 1 1-3 innings.

Jeff Kent was hit by a pitch leading off the eighth and went to third on Lance Berkman’s single before Hidalgo’s sacrifice fly made it 6-5.

Later in the inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, Biggio drove a pitch from Julian Tavarez off the left-field wall to score three. Everett brought Biggio home with a single.

“It got into that part of the game where the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins and we made too many mistakes,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Williams got a late start to spring training with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. He pitched just five innings in the spring and made it through only three innings while getting no decision in a 9-4 win over Milwaukee Thursday.

But he was sharp after the first inning Monday night, allowing six hits insix innings. He struck out five and walked two. ^NOTES: Lankford left the game after legging out an infield single in the second with a strained right hamstring. Trainer Barry Weinberg said the injury did not appear serious and Lankford was not expected to go on the disabled list. The Cardinals have only three other players listed as outfielders on the roster— Edmonds, Sanders and So Taguchi, though 2B Marlon Anderson and even 2B Bo Hartcould play there if needed. Anderson replaced Lankford in left field.

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