• Summary: Roy Oswalt struck out nine in seven dominant innings and the Astros picked up the first victory for manager Cecil Cooper, who replaced Phil Garner on Monday.
• Hero: Oswalt won his 14th game, helping the Astros win for just the third time in nine games.
• Unsung heroes: Lance Berkman and Luke Scott hit solo homers and Berkman added an RBI double.
• Figure this: The Cardinals fell back into third place in the NL Central after the Brewers beat the first-place Cubs.
• Quotable: "I had the best pitcher on the planet. Any time Roy takes the mound, you've got a great chance to win." -- Cooper
-- ESPN.com news services
Astros 7, Cardinals 0
HOUSTON (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals were just starting to feel good about their playoff chances. Then they ran into Roy Oswalt.The Houston ace allowed four hits and struck out nine in seven dominant innings and the Astros beat the Cardinals 7-0 on Wednesday night, giving Cecil Cooper his first win as manager.Lance Berkman and Luke Scott hit solo homers, Berkman added an RBI double off St. Louis starter Kip Wells and Houston won for just the third time in nine games.Oswalt (14-6), who turned 30 on Wednesday, also had an RBI single and won for the sixth time in seven starts. He came into the game with a 1.18 ERA in his last six outings and showed no ill effects from a strained oblique muscle that forced him to miss a start last Thursday."I was a little worried going into the game," said Oswalt, who threw 99 pitches. "I took it easy the first few innings. After the fourth inning, I let it go."Cooper took over the Astros after Phil Garner was fired on Monday. Houston lost 7-0 in his debut on Tuesday, but thanks to Oswalt, his second game went much smoother."My job was pretty easy tonight," said Cooper. "I had the best pitcher on the planet. Any time Roy takes the mound, you've got a great chance to win."Houston catcher Brad Ausmus gave Cooper the game ball, a keepsake Cooper will cherish."I will save it," he said. "It's pretty special."The Cardinals, who remained two games back in the NL Central, lost for the third time in nine games after getting back to .500 for the first time since April 16 on Tuesday. Manager Tony La Russa was ejected in the ninth by plate umpire Tim Tschida in the ninth for arguing balls and strikes.The rest of the Cardinals were just as frustrated by Oswalt, who's won seven of his last eight starts against St. Louis. He struck out four of the last six hitters he faced and allowed only one baserunner to reach second."He had good stuff," said Rick Ankiel, who had two of the Cardinals' six hits. "It was just electric. You just hope he makes a mistake."Wells (6-15) lost his second straight decision and gave up two homers for the second time in three starts. He allowed five runs and nine hits with two strikeouts in six innings.He trailed 4-0 after three innings, then shut down the Astros over the next three before allowing another run in the seventh.But the Cardinals couldn't help Wells with their bats.Aaron Miles doubled with two outs in the third, but Oswalt got David Eckstein to ground out. The Cardinals mustered only two more hits off Oswalt after that, a single by Albert Pujols in the fourth and an infield dribbler by Wells in the fifth."He was really sharp," La Russa said. "He never gave us anything to hit all night long. He was just outstanding."Oswalt noticed the Cardinals trying to extend their at-bats by taking pitches, but he just kept throwing strikes. Only 29 of his pitches were balls."I was able to get ahead of a lot of hitters," he said. "With the Cardinals, you can't let them start anything."Cooper, meanwhile, succeeded in kick-starting Houston's offense with some lineup changes. He moved Hunter Pence to the top spot in the batting order on Wednesday and dropped usual leadoff man Craig Biggio to No. 2.Pence singled in his first at-bat, but was forced out on Biggio's grounder back to Wells. Biggio beat out the relay throw to avoid the double play, then scored on Berkman's double off the right-field wall.Leading off the Houston second, Scott drove a 1-2 pitch just inside the right-field foul pole to make it 2-0. One out later, Brad Ausmus lined a 3-2 pitch to the gap in left center, his second triple of the season. Oswalt followed with a single to right, his second RBI of the season.Berkman led off the Houston third with a solo homer to right, his 25th of the season and 22nd batting left-handed. After a mediocre first four months, the four-time All-Star is hitting .418 with five homers and 13 RBIs since Aug. 11.Biggio led off the Astros' seventh with a double into the left-field corner. Biggio's 3,042nd career hit was his 665th double, tying him with George Brett for fifth all-time.Tyler Johnson relieved Wells, but Biggio scored on Carlos Lee's single to make it 5-0.Pence had a bases-loaded, RBI single in the eighth off Randy Flores. Pinch hitter Eric Bruntlett grounded into a fielder's choice, but another run scored to make it 7-0.
Biggio has more doubles than any right-handed batter in history. ... Berkman hit his 250th career homer and became the ninth switch hitter to reach the milestone. ... The Cardinals were shut out for the 11th time this season. ... Pujols has reached base in 69 of his last 75 games.