Cardinals extend lead to season-high 6½ games


MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals opened their biggest
lead of the season at just the right time.

Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop
single in the seventh inning, and the Cardinals extended their
winning streak to eight by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3
Wednesday night.

St. Louis opened a season-high 6½-game lead in the NL Central
over second-place Houston who lost to Colorado.

''Thank Colorado tonight for finally getting one from them
(Houston), giving us an extra game,'' reliever Jeff Fassero said.

Fassero (7-6) escaped a sixth-inning, two-on, one-out jam
created when Richie Sexson doubled off Cardinals starter Andy Benes
and Jose Hernandez walked. Fassero's effort kept the score tied at
3 and set the stage for Cairo's go-ahead hit in the seventh.

It as Fassero's second victory with St. Louis since being
acquired from the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 25 for two players to be

The Cardinals are on their longest winning streak since a
nine-game stretch from Sept. 8-22 last year.

The Cards hope to ride that momentum into their key four-game
series against the Astros.

''It's good going into Houston on a big winning streak,''
Fassero said.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa cautioned that his team can't
rest on how they've been playing.

''We never take this game for granted,'' he said. ''What we need
is to go into Houston and play well.''

After the 9:11 p.m. moment of silence and video tribute to the
victims of last year's terrorist attacks, Fassero retired
pinch-hitters Ryan Thompson and Robert Machado. Thompson popped to
short and Machado ground out to third, wasting Sexson's leadoff

Milwaukee was 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position Wednesday
night and 5-for-38 in the last four games.

Brewers manager Jerry Royster had finally seen enough and
launched a profanity-laced assessment of his team.

''We're not doing anything right,'' he said. ''We're playing
like clowns. It's ridiculous to play a game like that and lose by
one-run to the best team in the division. A pathetic game.''

Mike Matheny tripled off Ben Sheets (9-16) leading off the
bottom half and Cairo looped a single off into short right field
against Ray King. Cairo's 17 pinch hits are second in the NL, three
behind the Brewers' Lenny Harris.

Jason Isringhausen pitched the ninth for his 29th save in 33
chances, completing a three-game sweep. The Cardinals' bullpen has
gone 37 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.

Sheets, who tied Tampa Bay's Tanyon Sturtze for the major league
lead in losses, allowed four runs and eight hits in six-plus
innings. Benes gave up three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Sexson had two unassisted double plays at first base for the
Brewers, whose 51-95 record is the worst in the NL.

Tino Martinez homered in the second, but Jorge Fabregas tied it
in the third with an RBI double.

Edgar Renteria's RBI double and Matheny's run-scoring single
gave St. Louis a 3-1 lead in the fourth, but Milwaukee retired it
an inning later on Jorge Fabregas' sacrifice fly and Eric Young's
RBI single.

Game notes
Nelson Figueroa of the Brewers and Matheny read a message
from President Bush during a 25-minute pregame ceremony. ... The
Cardinals sent LHP Mike Matthews to the Brewers as a player to be
named in the Aug. 29 trade that sent minor league OF Chris Morris
to Milwaukee for RHP Jamey Wright. Matthews was activated from the
15-day disabled list (strained right hip flexor). RHP Chad Fox was
transferred to the 60-day disabled list. ... It was the ninth
series sweep for the Cardinals, their first in Milwaukee since
September 1998. They swept 12 series last season.