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St. Louis righty pitches shutout, drives in two

CINCINNATI (AP) -- At this rate, nobody's going to catch the
Cardinals.

Right-hander Jason Marquis hit a two-run double and pitched
seven stingy innings for his eighth straight win Tuesday night, 6-0
over the Cincinnati Reds.

Reggie Sanders and Jim Edmonds each hit a solo homer to back
Marquis (11-4), one of three St. Louis pitchers with double-digit
wins. Edmonds leads the NL with 11 homers in July.

The Cardinals are 10-3 since the All-Star break, surging to the
majors' best record and a daunting double-digit lead in the NL
Central. Half of those wins have come against Cincinnati, which is
2-10 against St. Louis this season.

It reminds Sanders of his 2001 season in Arizona, when he helped
the Diamondbacks win the World Series.

"That team had veterans who had an urgency to win now,"
Sanders said. "I think there's a little bit of that here now, that
urgency to get one. We've just got to continue to be relentless and
keep that edge."

By contrast, the NL's biggest surprise of the first three months
has gone flat.

The Reds managed only three hits as they lost their seventh in a
row overall, matching their worst slump of the season. Cincinnati
slipped below .500 for the first time since right-hander Cory Lidle
(6-9) lost the season opener.

Injuries to Ken Griffey Jr., Austin Kearns and Sean Casey set up
a tailspin that effectively scuttled their playoff chances.

"I don't think anybody thought this was going to happen," said
Lidle, who hasn't won since June 30. "I don't know if stunned is
the right word, but we're not too happy about it.

"After the All-Star break, we went up against some teams that
were playing well. We thought we were still in it, but we kept
falling down the ladder. We need to figure something out quick and
get some of our key players back."

The Cardinals have it all.

Marquis hasn't lost since May 26, going 8-0 with a pair of
no-decisions and a 2.90 ERA. He left the game for a pinch-hitter in
the eighth, having thrown 99 pitches.

The right-hander came to the Cardinals from Atlanta as part of
the trade for J.D. Drew in the offseason. After failing to win a
consistent role with the Braves, he's become a constant in the
Cardinals' surge.

"They let me go," Marquis said. "To me, they made a mistake.
I don't want to sound cocky about it."

Marquis also has been sensational at the plate. He doubled home
a pair of runs with two outs in the third inning off Lidle, who
struggled with his control in a five-inning stint. Marquis' 13th
hit this season -- the most by any pitcher in the majors -- put the
Cardinals ahead 5-0.

"I just feel comfortable with it," Marquis said of his
hitting. "I work on it between starts. I just have fun with it."

The Reds had one chance to get back into it, and Marquis
snatched it away.

The right-hander's only lapse came in the fourth, when he walked
Adam Dunn and D'Angelo Jimenez with two outs to load the bases.
Wily Mo Pena, who leads the league with two grand slams, broke his
bat on a soft liner to shortstop Edgar Renteria that ended the
threat.

Marquis, who threw eight innings during a 4-0 victory over
Milwaukee in his last start, allowed three hits, walked three and
struck out six.

"He's just beginning to scratch the surface of what he can be
as a pitcher," manager Tony La Russa said. "Give him another
couple of years. He's got the drive, the talent, the guts. He's fun
to watch."

Kiko Calero and Danny Haren finished off the Cardinals' eighth
shutout, tied with Atlanta for most in the NL.

The Reds' rotation has been largely to blame for their slide out
of contention. In the last seven games, Reds starters are 0-4 with
a 10.13 ERA.

Lidle has been in a deep rut, going 0-4 in his last five starts
while giving up 25 runs in 26 2/3 innings. Lidle led the AL in runs
allowed last season, and is third in the NL this year.

Sanders hit his 17th homer off Lidle in the second, and Edmonds
led off the fifth with his 26th homer, five of them since the
All-Star Game.

Game notes
The last Cardinals pitcher to win eight straight decisions
was Matt Morris in 2001. ... Marquis is hitting .289 with seven
RBI. ... OF Griffey caught fly balls in the outfield
and ran the bases at less than full speed, protecting his injured
right hamstring. "I ran pretty good," he said. "It doesn't grab,
but I can't fully extend it yet." There's no timetable for his
return from the DL. ... Reds OF Jason Romano had surgery to
reattach the top of his right hamstring to the bone. Romano will be
sidelined for four to six months.