Astros gain ground on NL Central-leading Cards


HOUSTON (AP) -- Jose Vizcaino learned how to hit in clutch
situations during his time with the New York Yankees.

Vizcaino put that knowledge to good use Thursday night when he
hit a three-run homer to cap a four-run rally in the eighth inning
as the Houston Astros beat St. Louis 6-3 to stop the Cardinals'
eight-game winning streak.

Vizcaino has been with seven teams, including the Yankees in
2000, before coming to Houston in 2001. Vizcaino drove in the
winning run in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series as the Yankees went
on to win the championship that season.

"I like to have pressure situations,'' Vizcaino said. "I
learned that attitude in New York. That's the attitude they all
have there. Different guys always come through for them. I've had
that attitude ever since then.''

Vizcaino, who had a season high four RBI, hit his fifth homer
of the season, and his second game-winner. He had a game-ending
homer against Pittsburgh on May 18.

"He has had a lot of big hits for us this season,'' manager
Jimy Williams said. "He always practices like he's trying to make
the team. He has honest enthusiasm and I think the players around
him pick up on that. He's had a very, very strong year for us.''

Houston, which closed within 5 games of the NL Central leader,
trailed 3-2 in the eighth when Craig Biggio homered off Dave Veres
(5-8) leading off.

Jeff Bagwell singled with one out, and Mike Crudale relieved and
walked Mark Loretta before giving up the home run to Vizcaino.

"I think it's a big deal because it's the first game of the
series,'' Crudale said. "We're still 5 up, but we want to take
every game from these guys. I'm sure we will bounce back. We've got
some good pitchers going.

"This is kind of the playoffs before the playoffs.''

Manager Tony La Russa didn't think his team played poorly.

"The way I look at it, you've got to give their guys some
credit for what they did,'' La Russa said. "Any time you see Veres
get the ball up like that, you know he's tired.''

Chuck Finley, facing Houston for the first time, allowed two
runs and four hits in five innings. He escaped a bases-loaded jam
in the fifth when Lance Berkman hit an inning-ending flyout.

"He had a little more left but we were trying to score some
runs,'' La Russa said. "I thought he handled himself really well.
The two-out double to Zaun were the only two runs he gave up.''

Octavio Dotel (6-4) pitched a two-hit eighth, and Billy Wagner
finished for his 32nd save in 38 chances, stranding a pair of
runners when he struck out Tino Martinez to end the game.

Astros starter Carlos Hernandez gave up two runs -- one earned --
six hits and five walks in five innings.

Martinez put St. Louis ahead with an RBI single in the second,
but Gregg Zaun hit a two-run double in the bottom half.

Edgar Renteria's RBI double retied it in the third, and Fernando
Vina hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Game notes
Berkman is 0-for-6 with the bases loaded and two outs this
season. ... Houston's Jason Lane had his first major league triple
in the fifth inning, two days after he had his first major league
home run against Colorado.