ST. LOUIS (AP) -- It's been a big September for Roy Oswalt, and
this time he stifled a team that has given him problems.
NL wild-card standings
Oswalt won for the fourth time this month with the help of a
two-inning save from Brad Lidge, and the Houston Astros extended
their NL wild-card lead to 2½ games with a 3-1 victory over the St.
Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night."They were swinging the bats pretty good and it didn't look
like things were going to happen with a big night offensively,"
Houston manager Phil Garner said. "So Roy had to pitch well, and
he did. So did Brad."Jason Lane hit a two-run homer and Craig Biggio hit his 25th,
setting a career best. Biggio returned to the team after spending
Monday in Houston for his mother's open heart surgery."It's a huge home run under the circumstances the last couple
of days, with what my mom went through," Biggio said. "She wanted
me to get here and not miss any games."The Astros (86-71) matched a season high at 15 games above .500
and snapped a six-game skid in St. Louis, winning for the fourth
time in 15 tries overall against the Cardinals. Houston has five
games remaining, four at home against the Cubs, and Philadelphia's
3-2 loss to the Mets gave the Astros a nice cushion.Houston's victory also eliminated New York from playoff
contention."We're not oblivious to the scoreboard," Lidge said. "We can
see what the Phillies are doing. It's just one of those deals that
if Roy's throwing as good as he is, he's allowing us some free time
to look at the scoreboard."Matt Morris (14-10) lost his career-worst fifth straight
decision despite working six solid innings. Larry Walker had three
hits in his first game back after a fourth cortisone shot for a
herniated disc in his neck, and scored the Cardinals' lone run on
Reggie Sanders' double in the sixth."I had some good swings and I felt comfortable," Walker said.
"After five days, I was happy with how it went."The Cardinals are 3-7 since clinching the NL Central title and
need to finish 3-1 to give the franchise 100 victories in
consecutive seasons for the second time, and first since 1942-44.Oswalt (19-12) allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings
with seven strikeouts and no walks. He is 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in
September. He lost his other two starts against the Cardinals this
season, allowing 10 runs in 12 innings."I've faced these guys 50 times it feels like already," Oswalt
said. "I got a few guys to swing at pitches out of the strike
zone, that's the biggest thing."Everyone knows I don't try to walk anybody."Lidge, pitching for the first time in five days, earned his 39th
save in 42 chances. He also got his first career pickoff, catching
rookie pinch-runner Skip Schumacher off first in the ninth.The Astros had only one runner in scoring position before
breaking through against Morris in the sixth. Mike Lamb singled
with two outs and Lane followed with his 25th homer over the
center-field wall.Lane is batting .351 in his last 15 games since Sept. 12 with
four homers, four doubles and nine RBI. Of his 37 career homers,
13 have come in September.Consecutive one-out doubles by Walker and Sanders, who just
missed a homer on a drive off the right-field wall, cut the gap to
a run in the sixth.Biggio homered off Jason Marquis, pitching in relief for the
first time since the end of the 2003 season, leading off the
eighth. Marquis, who allowed only that hit in two innings, does not
figure in the Cardinals' rotation for the first round of the
playoffs.Morris, who'll pitch in the final regular-season game at
40-year-old Busch Stadium on Sunday, had his second straight
resurgent start after a stretch of four ineffective outings. He
gave up two runs and five hits with three strikeouts and a walk."It's good for you guys," manager Tony La Russa told
reporters. "Maybe you'll get off his case a little bit."
Albert Pujols participated in the Busch Stadium countdown,
removing his jersey No. 5. ... The Astros are 34-11 when Lane gets
an RBI. ... The Astros are 76-0 when leading after eight innings.
... Marquis' last relief outing was Sept. 28, 2003, when he earned
his first -- and only -- career save for the Braves. ... A paid crowd
of 40,260 gave the Cardinals a franchise record of 3,351,194 fans
for the season. The previous record was 3,336,493 in 2000.