Series: Game 1 of 4

Houston leads 1-0 (as of 9/12)

Game 1: Thursday, September 12
St. Louis 3Final
Houston 6
Game 2: Friday, September 13
St. Louis 3Final
in 10
Houston 2
Game 3: Saturday, September 14
St. Louis 2Final
Houston 1
Game 4: Sunday, September 15
St. Louis 0Final
Houston 8

Cardinals 3

(84-62, 40-35 away)

Astros 6

(79-68, 44-31 home)

    8:05 PM ET, September 12, 2002

    Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas 

    123456789 R H E
    STL 010101000 3 - -
    HOU 02000004 - 6 - -

    W: O. Dotel (6-4)

    L: D. Veres (5-8)

    S: B. Wagner (32)

    Astros gain ground on NL Central-leading Cards

    HOUSTON (AP) -- Jose Vizcaino learned how to hit in clutch situations during his time with the New York Yankees.

    Jose Vizcaino

    Jose Vizcaino, right, is congratulated by teammates after his homer.

    Vizcaino put that knowledge to good use Thursday night when he hit a three-run homer to cap a four-run rally in the eighth inning as the Houston Astros beat St. Louis 6-3 to stop the Cardinals' eight-game winning streak.

    Vizcaino has been with seven teams, including the Yankees in 2000, before coming to Houston in 2001. Vizcaino drove in the winning run in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series as the Yankees went on to win the championship that season.

    "I like to have pressure situations,'' Vizcaino said. "I learned that attitude in New York. That's the attitude they all have there. Different guys always come through for them. I've had that attitude ever since then.''

    Vizcaino, who had a season high four RBI, hit his fifth homer of the season, and his second game-winner. He had a game-ending homer against Pittsburgh on May 18.

    "He has had a lot of big hits for us this season,'' manager Jimy Williams said. "He always practices like he's trying to make the team. He has honest enthusiasm and I think the players around him pick up on that. He's had a very, very strong year for us.''

    Houston, which closed within 5½ games of the NL Central leader, trailed 3-2 in the eighth when Craig Biggio homered off Dave Veres (5-8) leading off.

    Jeff Bagwell singled with one out, and Mike Crudale relieved and walked Mark Loretta before giving up the home run to Vizcaino.

    "I think it's a big deal because it's the first game of the series,'' Crudale said. "We're still 5½ up, but we want to take every game from these guys. I'm sure we will bounce back. We've got some good pitchers going.

    "This is kind of the playoffs before the playoffs.''

    Manager Tony La Russa didn't think his team played poorly.

    "The way I look at it, you've got to give their guys some credit for what they did,'' La Russa said. "Any time you see Veres get the ball up like that, you know he's tired.''

    Chuck Finley, facing Houston for the first time, allowed two runs and four hits in five innings. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth when Lance Berkman hit an inning-ending flyout.

    "He had a little more left but we were trying to score some runs,'' La Russa said. "I thought he handled himself really well. The two-out double to Zaun were the only two runs he gave up.''

    Octavio Dotel (6-4) pitched a two-hit eighth, and Billy Wagner finished for his 32nd save in 38 chances, stranding a pair of runners when he struck out Tino Martinez to end the game.

    Astros starter Carlos Hernandez gave up two runs -- one earned -- six hits and five walks in five innings.

    Martinez put St. Louis ahead with an RBI single in the second, but Gregg Zaun hit a two-run double in the bottom half.

    Edgar Renteria's RBI double retied it in the third, and Fernando Vina hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

    Game notes

    Berkman is 0-for-6 with the bases loaded and two outs this season. ... Houston's Jason Lane had his first major league triple in the fifth inning, two days after he had his first major league home run against Colorado.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press