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Cardinals pull within game of Reds

ST. LOUIS -- Scott Rolen is on such a roll, the St. Louis Cardinals have come to expect success.

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.

Roger Cedeno, Marlon Anderson and Jim Edmonds drove in a run
apiece for the Cardinals, and Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth
for his 12th save in 15 chances.

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.

Mike Lamb added his fifth homer, and second off Morris in five
days, in the second for Houston. Three straight singles, the last
by Jeff Bagwell, gave the Astros a 2-0 lead in the third.

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.

Game notes
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.