Series: Game 1 of 2

St. Louis leads 1-0 (as of 9/23)

Game 1: Tuesday, September 23
St. Louis5Final
Game 2: Wednesday, September 24
St. Louis8Final

Cardinals 5

(82-76, 34-43 away)

Brewers 1

(66-91, 31-49 home)

    8:05 PM ET, September 23, 2003

    Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

    123456789 R H E
    STL 032000000 5 10 0
    MIL 100000000 1 3 0

    W: W. Williams (17-9)

    L: B. Sheets (11-13)

    St. Louis 5, Milwaukee 1

    MILWAUKEE (AP) -- If not for Woody Williams and the Milwaukee Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn't have an outside shot at making the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

    Williams mastered Milwaukee for the second time in a week as Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-1 Tuesday night, keeping St. Louis within 3{ games of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central race with four games left.

    Williams (17-9) scattered three hits over seven innings, walking none and striking out six as the Cardinals improved to 12-3 against Milwaukee.

    Williams was just as sharp at Miller Park as he was in St. Louis on Thursday night, when he also scattered three hits over seven innings in a 13-0 rout of the Brewers.

    In three starts against Milwaukee this season, Williams went 3-0, allowing just eight hits and one run in 20 2-3 innings for a 0.44 ERA.

    "He's been masterful against everybody," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's meant so much to our club ever since he joined us (in mid-2001), especially this year.

    "We wouldn't be within a smell of the lead if it wasn't for Woody."

    But Williams looks back at an eight-start stretch from July 31 to Sept. 6 in which he didn't win a game.

    "If I'd been pitching like this a month ago, we'd be in better shape" in the standings, he said. "It's nice being able to bounce back."

    But, like the Cardinals overall, it may just be too late.

    Williams gave up a solo homer to Brady Clark, his sixth, on a 2-and-0 pitch in the first inning but then retired the next 11 batters until Wes Helms singled with one out in the fifth.

    "He just moves his fastball around, puts the ball where he wants it, keeps you off-balance with his curveball and changeup," Clark said. "He doesn't throw exceptionally hard, but he knows how to pitch."

    Bill Hall's single in the sixth was the only other hit the Brewers could muster off Williams.

    In the second, Eduardo Perez hit a sacrifice fly and Mike Matheny followed with a two-run homer, his eighth, off Ben Sheets for a 3-1 St. Louis lead.

    The Cardinals made it 5-1 in the third inning on Scott Rolen's second double, a two-run shot down the left-field line.

    Sheets (11-13) allowed five runs on nine hits in six innings, assuring himself of a second straight losing season.

    Sheets has won just one of 10 starts since July.

    "That's embarrassing to go out there with good stuff and get hit. It's like you're a pitching machine out there," he said. "I ain't missed a bat in a month."

    Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said he'll be glad when Wednesday night comes so he won't have to see St. Louis again until next season.

    "We've played most everybody pretty good," Yost said. "And for some reason, the Cardinals have just had our number this year."

    Especially Williams.

    Game notes

    Brewers GM Doug Melvin said the entire coaching staff and medical and training staffs have been asked to return in 2004. ... Brewers 1B Richie Sexson is three walks shy of the club record of 99 set by Jeromy Burnitz in 2000. ... Matheny entered the night with a .325 career batting average against the Brewers, for whom he played in the 1990s. ... Williams is 9-4 against Milwaukee in his career, including 5-0 over the last two seasons. ... Albert Pujols hit his 50th double in the fifth inning, become the first Cardinals hitter to reach that number since Stan Musial in 1953.<

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press