DENVER (AP) -- During the seventh inning, Tino Martinez and the
rest of his teammates looked at Coors Field's scoreboard and saw
that Houston had lost to Milwaukee.
"Our game was tied,'' Martinez said, "and we wanted this game
pretty bad. Fortunately, we were able to put some runs together in
the next inning.''Did they ever.Martinez hit a grand slam, capping a seven-run eighth inning
that carried the St. Louis Cardinals over the Colorado Rockies 11-4
on Tuesday night.
Coupled with Houston's 5-4 loss to Milwaukee, the Cardinals
reduced their magic number for clinching the NL Central to five.
St. Louis leads the Astros by 7½ games."It's not over yet. We've still got work to do, but it's nice to drop two spots,'' Martinez said. "We want to get this thing done as soon as we can.''Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said his team has one goal as it
chases the division title."You've got to take care of your own business,'' he said. "But once in a while you catch a break. I saw that Milwaukee was throwing Ben Sheets tonight, and he's tough.''Pinch-hitter So Taguchi broke a 4-4 tie with an RBI single in
the eighth. Albert Pujols added a two-run single before Martinez's
10th career grand slam.Jeff Fassero (8-6) got three outs to earn the win."That's a very good ballclub,'' Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "And we didn't see (J.D.) Drew or (Fernando) Vina. There's a reason they're in first place.''Edgar Renteria led off the eighth with a single against Kent
Mercker (3-1). Mike Matheny popped up a bunt that Mercker caught,
but the pitcher threw wildly to first trying to double up the
runner.Renteria, on second as a result of the error, scored on
Taguchi's single to center. Taguchi, recalled from Double-A New
Haven on Sept. 7, was caught in a rundown between first and second,
however.Miguel Cairo and Eli Marrero followed with singles and Jim
Edmonds walked to load the bases. Pujols then singled and after a
walk to Scott Rolen, Martinez hit his 19th homer off Sean Lowe.Martinez has hit at least one grand slam in eight consecutive
seasons, one short of Willie McCovey's major league record."It's nice to keep the streak going,'' Martinez said. "It's
nothing I'm shooting for, but when it keeps going it's nice to have
it."It doesn't really cross my mind when I'm at the plate with the
bases loaded. I'm up there trying to focus and get a base hit and
drive in some runs. I don't think about home runs or grand slams.
When it happens like it did tonight, then you think about it.''St. Louis' Chuck Finley pitched six strong innings and departed
with a 4-2 lead, but the bullpen couldn't hold it.Finley, who has played a key role in the Cardinals' pennant drive since his acquisition July 19 from Cleveland, left after giving up three straight singles to start the seventh, including Juan Uribe's RBI hit.Fassero relieved Finley, and pinch-hitter Terry Shumpert
sacrificed the runners to second and third. Jason Romano grounded
to third, but Rolen's throw to the plate was in the dirt. The error
allowed a run to score, and Gabe Kapler followed with an RBI single
to make it 4-4.Fassero worked out of the jam as Todd Helton lined to first, and
Martinez stepped on the base to double up Kapler.Colorado starter Aaron Cook went four innings, allowing six hits
and four runs.Rolen's two-run homer highlighted the Cardinals' three-run first.
Drew was available to pinch-hit after being in Vail earlier Tuesday to see knee specialist Dr. Richard Steadman. Drew has been
troubled by tendinitis in his left knee. ... With Vina in
California attending to personal business, the Cardinals started
Eduardo Perez in right field and Miguel Cairo at second. ... The
Rockies were leaning toward starting Victor Santos or Randy Flores
on Friday in place of Mike Hampton, who has a strained ligament in
his right foot. ... The Rockies added LHP Cory Vance to their
roster. Vance was 10-8 with a 3.77 ERA with the Double-A Carolina
Mudcats. ... St. Louis reached agreement with the Tennessee Smokies
of the Southern League to serve as the team's Double-A affiliate
beginning in 2003.