Cardinals 1, Marlins 0

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MIAMI (AP)—If the St. Louis Cardinals could just get the offense going, they’d really be tough to beat.

For the second night in a row, St. Louis won without much production from its vaunted lineup. Jeff Suppan allowed only two hits in eight-plus innings, and the Cardinals extended their winning streak to seven games Wednesday night by beating the Florida Marlins 1-0.

Edgar Renteria singled home the lone run for the Cardinals, who improved to 20-5 since the All-Star break. They’ve won the first two games in their series with the Marlins by a combined score of 3-1.

Suppan (10-6) walked two, struck out two, threw 100 pitches and benefited from outstanding glove work, especially by third baseman Scott Rolen.

“I was able to keep the goose eggs going,” Suppan said. “I tried to throw strikes and use the defense.”

Carl Pavano (12-5) was almost as good, allowing one run and six hits in eight innings. The Marlins have given up eight hits in two games against the Cardinals, who lead the NL in hitting and added three-time batting champion Larry Walker last week.

St. Louis’ pitchers have been even better. They limited Florida to one run Tuesday, and Suppan took a no-hitter into the sixth.

“I was aware I was throwing one,” he said. “There was a guy in the front row who kept telling me every time I went out there.”

Suppan gave up a sharp single to Alex Gonzalez leading off the sixth, then departed after Juan Pierre beat out a dribbler up the first-base line for a single to start the ninth.

When Pierre advanced on a sacrifice, Jason Isringhausen came on to retire Paul Lo Duca and Miguel Cabrera for his 31st save in 36 chances.

Right fielder Walker made a running over-the-shoulder catch of Jeff Conine’s fly three steps from the wall in the fifth, and Rolen contributed several defensive gems.

“The game Rolen played—my goodness,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He has great games every night, and he had greater than that.”

Time is running out for the World Series champion Marlins. They fell nine games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East and 6 1/2 behind the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card standings.

“I don’t feel any clock,” Pavano said. “It’s over when they tell us it’s over.”

That will be soon, unless the Marlins start scoring more. They’ve totaled two runs in the past 33 innings.

They went 10 innings over two games without a hit until Gonzalez ended the 0-for-30 stretch with a ground single between third and shortstop leading off the sixth. After a sacrifice and a walk, Suppan retired Luis Castillo and Lo Duca on grounders.

Even a small bottle of holy water from the archdiocese of Miami that manager Jack McKeon keeps on his desk hasn’t helped.

“I used it on the bats, but it didn’t seem to work. I guess I’ve got to get it blessed again,” McKeon joked. “We’re not hitting. You run across those days, weeks and years sometimes.”

Struggling worst for Florida is slugger Mike Lowell, who went 0-for-3 and is in a 3-for-36 slump.

“He’s pressing,” McKeon said. “You’ve got to relax and have fun. It’s not the end of the world.”

In the first five innings Suppan allowed only one baserunner—a walk to Gonzalez in the third. The right-hander improved to 7-0 on the road and became the fourth St. Louis pitcher to reach 10 wins.

“He changed speeds, moving the ball in and out and keeping the ball down probably better than any pitcher we’ve seen this year,” Pavano said. “He kept us off balance all night.”

The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie in the sixth after leadoff hitter Rolen fell behind 0-2 and then coaxed a walk. He took third on a single by Jim Edmonds and scored on a single by Renteria.

That was it for offense from St. Louis, which managed just two hits in their victory Tuesday against the Marlins.

“They have great pitching,” Renteria said. “I can’t wait to get out of here.”

Notes

The Marlins optioned RHP Ben Howard to Triple-A Albuquerque and are expecting to activate closer Armando Benitez on Thursday. … The Cardinals improved to 51-16 since May 27. They’re 38-17 this season on the road. … Suppan went 0-for-3 and is in an 0-for-44 slump dating back to last season. … The last time Pavano faced the Cardinals, he pitched the 19th and 20th innings and took the defeat. Florida lost that game 7-6 on April 27, 2003. … The Cardinals have allowed 13 runs during their seven-game winning streak.

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