Cardinals 4, Astros 2

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—More big offense from Jim Edmonds and a bounce-back game from Matt Morris helped the St. Louis Cardinals surface from their worst stretch of the season.

Edmonds’ sacrifice fly snapped an eighth-inning tie and Morris rebounded from one of his worst starts of the season, bringing the Cardinals one step closer to the NL Central championship with a 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Edmonds also hit his 42nd homer, matching his career best set in 2000. The Cardinals have won only three of eight, but reduced their magic number for clinching the division to four.

“We knocked one off the number the hard way,” manager Tony La Russa said. “That was a tough win.”

Jeff Kent hit a two-run homer and Lance Berkman had two hits, giving him six in the last two games. Houston has lost only four of its last 19 games, but fell two games behind the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card race.

“A two-run homer, and that was it,” manager Phil Garner said. “We didn’t get anybody to third, and that was the story tonight.”

Albert Pujols started the eighth-inning rally with a one-out single off Russ Springer (0-1). Edgar Renteria followed with a single to snap an 0-for-24 slump, and Pujols went to third when center fielder Carlos Beltran bobbled the ball for an error.

“If Carlos makes the play there, I don’t think he goes to third,” Garner said. “Maybe we get out of it, maybe we don’t.

“Sometimes you don’t make the plays you like to make, but you’ve still got to get out of it.”

Edmonds, whose 53 RBIs since the All-Star break trails only the Expos’ Tony Batista (54) in the NL, followed with a liner to center for his 108th RBI. Renteria came around one batter later on a wild pitch.

“A couple of chink hits and a wild pitch,” Kent said. “That’s what a winning team does, manufacture runs.”

Kiko Calero (2-1) retired the top of the order in the eighth by striking out Craig Biggio, retiring Beltran on a tapper to the mound and then striking out Jeff Bagwell. Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his 42nd save in 48 chances.

Berkman, who’s 6-for-8 the last two games, reached on an infield hit to start the second and scored on Kent’s 22nd homer to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. Edmonds answered with his 11th homer in 17 games off Carlos Hernandez in the home half.

The Cardinals tied it at 2 on Mike Matheny’s RBI double in the fourth.

Morris was smacked around in his previous start, allowing two homers and seven runs in two innings in a loss at San Diego, but followed with a solid performance Wednesday night. He allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings.

Morris said his release point was off against the Padres, perhaps because of general soreness, causing his cut fastball to drift over the middle of the plate.

“I’m not trying to throw the ball to light up the radar gun, I’m trying to be consistent and get the good action,” Morris said. “If it’s sinking at 86 mph I’m still going to get outs.”

Hernandez made his seventh start of the season and lasted six innings, giving up two runs on four hits. He was impressed with the Cardinals’ lineup.

“Pujols, Edmonds, Renteria—from the first to the last they’re awesome,” Hernandez said.

Notes

Tony Womack got his 35th infield hit in the third. It’s the most for the Cardinals since Vince Coleman had 43 in 1989. Womack also had one of the top defensive plays of the game when he turned pinch-hitter Morgan Ensberg’s sharp grounder behind the second-base bag into an inning-ending double play in the seventh. … Edmonds is 3-for-12 against Hernandez with two homers. … Tony La Russa managed his 3,942nd game, tying Gene Mauch for fifth on the career list. … Craig Biggio was 0-for-4, ending a 14-game hitting streak. … The Cardinals have won 11 of 12 at home. … RHP Julian Tavarez said his appeal for a 10-game suspension for having pine tar on his cap will be heard on Tuesday in Milwaukee.

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