Cardinals pull within game of Reds
Rolen snapped a fifth-inning tie with a two-run single, giving him a major league-leading 57 RBI and sending the Cardinals to a 5-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night. The five-time Gold Glove third baseman is also among the league leaders with a .354 average.
"Defensively he's phenomenal, making unbelievable plays, and he's hitting the heck out of the ball," pitcher Matt Morris said. "Really, he's got to be one of the best ballplayers I've ever played with."
The Cardinals have won five in a row and eight of nine to pull within a game of NL Central-leading Cincinnati. They're 6-4 against the Astros, although this was their first victory in four tries at home.
St. Louis won without manager Tony La Russa, serving the first game of a two-game suspension for his shouting match with Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon on Thursday. La Russa got credit for his 2,040th win, tying him with Walter Alston for sixth on the career list, while wearing street clothes and watching from a private box at press level.
"Out of uniform when it happens, it won't be something I'll treasure," La Russa said. "But I've been a big baseball fan since I was a baby so all these names the last few years, they all have a lot of significance to me."
The opener of a three-game series drew a sellout crowd of 47,373 -- and the other two games also are sold out.
Rolen's go-ahead hit off Wade Miller (5-6) gave him four hits in seven at-bats with four RBI since getting beaned by the Pirates' Ryan Vogelsong on Tuesday. Rolen, batting .436 (17-for-39) during a 10-game hitting streak with four homers and 16 RBI, sat out Wednesday before returning to the lineup.
"Beaning? What happened?" Rolen joked. "I don't remember anything like that. It's just a stat -- since the beaning."
Albert Pujols also had a big plate appearance during the inning, walking on 11 pitches to load the bases for Rolen and perhaps make Miller tired.
"The pitch Rolen hit was a tough pitch, but I guess what happened before that was what got him in trouble more than anything," Houston manager Jimy Williams said. "He threw a lot of pitches, got into a pretty high pitch count."
Morris (5-5) gave up three runs on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings and worked around two homers, his major league-leading 17th and 18th allowed this season.
Miller lost to the Cardinals for the second straight outing, neither time making it through the fifth. In 4 1-3 innings he allowed five runs on five hits and four walks, and in the two starts he allowed nine earned runs in 8 1-3 innings.
He was most disturbed about leadoff walks to rookie Yadier Molina in the third and fifth. He scored each time.
"That killed me," Miller said. "They got the run in the third, and then in the fifth it kind of snowballed on me."
Jeff Kent homered in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to 19 games, six games better than his previous best, and Craig Biggio was 3-for-4 with a walk. Kent is batting .352 (25-for-71) during the streak.
Cedeno's sacrifice fly cut the deficit to one in the third, and two of Miller's four walks helped the Cardinals score four runs in the fifth to take a 5-2 lead.
Morris lost in his last start to the Astros despite a solid effort, giving up three runs and four hits in seven innings. He won for the first time in four starts.
The Cardinals are a major league-best 19-9 on the road, and they're 12-14 at home after a 1-6 start. ... Lamb is 12-for-25 with three homers and eight RBI in his last 11 games. ... Kent's hitting streak is five games shy of the franchise record set by Tony Eusebio in 2000. ... Cedeno is 4-for-5 in his career against Miller.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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