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Piazza delivery: Single lifts Padres past flopping Cards

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Things are going so well for the San Diego Padres' final-month surge, they could afford to give Trevor Hoffman
the day off.

Mike Piazza's single snapped a seventh-inning tie and the Padres
got stingy relief without their record-setting closer after starter
David Wells was scratched due to gout, beating the sagging St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 Monday night in a matchup of NL division
leaders.

Manager Bruce Bochy told Hoffman, who had pitched in six of the
last eight games, he'd have the night off no matter what. Even with
two men on in the ninth, baseball's career saves leader remained
seated.

"I kept peeking into the bullpen half-thinking he was maybe
going to warm up to get the last out or something," Scott Linebrink said after finishing for his second save. "There was no
safety net.

"I don't know how Hoffy does that almost 500 times. I think I'd
have a few more gray hairs if I'd keep doing that."

Brian Giles hit a three-run double in a five-run second, and the
bullpen allowed three hits in 5 2/3 innings to help the Padres win
for the 10th time in 13 games. San Diego has a two-game lead in the
NL West over idle Los Angeles with six games to play and a 1½-game
edge over the wild-card contending Phillies, who lost to the
Astros.

"We don't care about them," Giles said. "We're trying to take
care of business ourselves and not depend on other teams helping us
out."

The Cardinals, meanwhile, lost their sixth in a row and saw
their Central lead cut to 2½ games by Houston, which beat
Philadelphia 5-4. St. Louis led by seven games before its skid, but
its magic number remained at five for the third straight game.

Jim Edmonds connected for a three-run, pinch-hit homer in his
first at-bat since Aug. 26, and Chris Duncan also homered for St.
Louis. Edmonds had been out while recovering from the effects of a
concussion and homered for the first time since Aug. 10.

"What a way to get us back into the game," manager Tony La
Russa said. "If this was a movie, we would have won the game, but
we didn't."

Linebrink got four outs for the save in place of Hoffman, who
posted his major league-record 479th save Sunday.

Linebrink struck out three in the ninth, fanning Scott Rolen
with runners on first and second to end it.

Mike Thompson was a fill-in starter with Wells expected to miss
a full turn before gout medication produces results. Thompson
lasted 3 1/3 innings in his first start since Aug. 30 and allowed
four earned runs and eight hits.

Geoff Blum and Josh Barfield drove in a run apiece in the second
for the Padres, whose 41-34 road record is third-best in the NL.

Edmonds' 19th homer tied it at five in the fourth, helping the
Cardinals overcome an early 5-1 deficit.

Giles led off the seventh with a bloop double down the
left-field line and scored on Piazza's RBI single off Brad Thompson
(1-2).

Scott Cassidy (6-4) struck out the side in the sixth, working
around a walk and a single.

Duncan saved a run in the ninth when he threw out Dave Roberts
at the plate trying to score from second on Linebrink's single to
left.

The Cardinals are 46-28 at home, impressive especially when
compared with their 34-47 road record. They had won five of six at
new Busch Stadium before faltering in the first game of a
season-ending, seven-game homestand.

Giles' drive off the base of the center-field wall capped the
five-run outburst against Jeff Suppan, who had entered with a
major league-leading 2.04 ERA since the All-Star break. Suppan
lasted 3 2/3 innings, his shortest appearance in 15 starts since
July 5, and gave up five runs, four earned.

"It was a tough night to have," Suppan said. "Basically, I
missed down the middle a lot, and they were able to capitalize on
that."

Giles had been in a 3-for-23 slump before his first double.

"That's what's so fun about this game," Giles said. "One week
it looks like you've never played and the next week it seems
sometimes you can't make an out."

Duncan hit his 21st homer, and 18th since the break, in the
first. Albert Pujols added a run-scoring single in the third for
his 130th RBI, tying his career high set in his 2001 rookie
season.

Game notes
Fill-in Cardinals SS Jose Vizcaino, subbing for injured
David Eckstein, was 2-for-2 with a walk in his first start since
Sept. 10. Vizcaino fouled a pitch off his foot before walking in
the sixth and was taken out for a pinch runner. ... Duncan has hit
18 homers since the All-Star break, including two in the last three
games. ... The go-ahead hit gave Piazza his first RBI in a week.
... Padres reliever Cla Meredith allowed one hit in 1 1-3 innings
and has given up only four earned runs in 48 2-3 innings for an
0.74 ERA. ... The Cardinals are only five games above .500 for the
first time since May 4 when they were 17-12.