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NL: Risk pays off for red-hot Cards

©Associated Press

September 15, 2002


HOUSTON -- Every move the St. Louis Cardinals make is pushing the Astros further out of the Central race.

HOUSTON -- Every move the St. Louis Cardinals make is pushing the Astros further out of the Central race.

Woody Williams showed no ill effects from a strained muscle in his left side, pitching seven scoreless innings for his third straight victory as St. Louis extended its Central lead with a 2-1 victory over the Astros on Saturday.

The Cardinals survived a bases-loaded ninth and won for the 10th time in 11 games to take a 7 1/2-game lead over second-place Houston.

Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen intentionally walked pinch-hitter Orlando Merced to load the bases with two outs in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Gregg Zaun then fouled out to catcher Mike Matheny to end it.

"It's not my favorite thing to do to walk the bases loaded," manager Tony La Russa said. "Zaun has done a good job for them, but Merced had been really good in that situation."

Williams, making his fourth start since coming off the disabled list Aug. 29, held the Astros to five hits. The Cardinals weren't sure how far he could go because of the injury.

"I felt good out there for the first time in a long time," Williams said. "When I started warming up I didn't feel any tightness at all. I definitely had more in the tank. We're in a good position, but this is by no means over."

The Cardinals lead the season series with Houston 11-4. Eight games have been decided by one run, and the Cardinals have won six of those.

"It seems like every time we play the Cardinals it's a close game and we lose by one run," Houston's Jeff Bagwell said. "That's frustrating. We didn't play bad baseball. We made all the plays, all the pitches. They just played better."

Williams allowed one runner to reach second, when Daryle Ward and Mark Loretta hit consecutive singles with two outs in the fourth. Jose Vizcaino grounded out to end it.

D'BACKS 5, BREWERS 0: Randy Johnson earned his career-high 22nd victory, pitching a three-hitter and striking out 17 to lead host Arizona.

Johnson (22-5) and Curt Schilling (23-5) are the league's first teammates to win at least 22 each in 37 years, when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale did it for the Dodgers.

Arizona's magic number for clinching the West is nine with 14 games left.

DODGERS 16, ROCKIES 3: Brian Jordan had a home run and four RBIs and Adrian Beltre homered and drove in three as visiting Los Angeles snapped a two-game skid.

Odalis Perez allowed two runs in five innings to improve to 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in four starts this season against Colorado.

Jordan hit his 17th homer of the season, giving him four homers and 16 RBIs in 13 games this month. Shawn Green and Eric Karros had three RBIs each for the Dodgers, who finished with 20 hits.

REDS 3, CUBS 1: Reggie Taylor and Jose Guillen had consecutive run-scoring hits in the fifth before being involved in a brief dugout flareup for host Cincinnati.

Taylor and Guillen were restrained by members of the coaching staff in the dugout as they came off the field after the top of the sixth. Guillen, a former Rays outfielder, was led by team captain Barry Larkin to the end of the dugout, where they talked. Taylor had a shorter discussion with bench coach Ray Knight.

Neither player would discuss the dispute.

BRAVES 10, MARLINS 5: Tom Glavine, who had lost a career-high four straight starts, hung on with help from the bullpen for visiting Atlanta.

Glavine pitched into the sixth for his first win in his past six starts. Given a 5-0 lead, he was chased in the sixth when the Marlins scored four.

PHILLIES 4, PIRATES 1: Fill-in Eric Junge pitched five impressive innings for his first major-league victory as host Philadelphia beat Pittsburgh for the first time in five tries this season.

EXPOS 5, METS 4: Michael Barrett and Endy Chavez hit two-run doubles in the sixth as host Montreal overcame Mike Piazza's two homers.

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