Robertson puts body over mind to power Astros

Friday, May 23, 2003

HOUSTON -- Jeriome Robertson has found the secret to pitching in the major leagues -- don't think.

Robertson won for the first time in more than a month, pitching 5 2/3 innings to help the Houston Astros beat the Cardinals 5-2 Thursday night.

Robertson (2-3) allowed one run on four hits, striking out four and walking none for his first win since beating Cincinnati on April 10. He had had four no-decisions and two losses since his previous victory.

After starting off 1-3 with an 8.36 ERA in his first six starts, Robertson went down to the minors May 2 but was recalled 10 days later. Now he knows what the key is to winning.

"I'm not thinking now," Robertson said. "I'm just letting Zaunie" -- catcher Gregg Zaun -- "call the game. I'm not worrying about what I need to do with a hitter. I just throw whatever he wants and where he wants it.

"Zaunie and I are on the same page. I know what he wants most of the game," he said.

Zaun, who catches all of Robertson's games, was impressed.

"That's absolutely the best he's thrown," Zaun said. "He made a bad pitch to Albert Pujols when he didn't quite get it far enough inside. But the rest of the time, he had good control.

"He looked settled out there, too. He was deliberate and poised. I hope he can build on this."

After Pujols' home run, Robertson settled down to retire 12 of the next 13 batters, with the only baserunner reaching on an error. He finished by setting down 15 of the last 18 he faced, but was pulled after Pujols' double in the sixth. Manager Jimy Williams just thought he needed to make a move.

Scott "Rolen was up next and he has hit pretty well against left-handers," Williams said. "So I thought I'd bring in Stoney" (Rick Stone).

"But Jeriome pitched good. He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes, not just with his fast ball but with his breaking ball too. The last game he pitched, he kept us in the game and we won after he left. He has had a couple of good starts in a row."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa agreed.

"He got strike one and he worked us over after that," La Russa said. "I thought we would get more off Robertson but they did more than we did and we didn't get to him."

The Cardinals were baffled by the rookie left-hander.

"We hit some balls good in one inning," Fernando Vina said. "But he wasn't throwing anything straight. Everything was moving. Give him credit. He's a major league pitcher."

St. Louis has lost five of eight games against the Astros this year, but no one is worrying.

"Why should we?" Mike Matheny said. "It's only May. We've got a good lineup and good pitchers and we're going to win a lot of games."

Jeff Kent had a pair of RBI doubles and Adam Everett hit his first major league home run for Houston.

Billy Wagner pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances. It was his 193rd career save, moving him past Mitch Williams into fifth place on the major league list for saves by a left-hander.

Brett Tomko (2-3) went 4 1-3 innings and allowed five runs on eight hits.

Pujols hit his 14th home run, putting the Cardinals ahead 1-0 in the first. He has homered in five of his last six games.

Kent's RBI doubles came in the first and third innings, driving in Morgan Ensberg from first both times to give Houston a 2-1 lead.

In the fourth, Richard Hidalgo's seventh homer was followed one out later by Everett's homer. Everett homered on his 151st major league at bat.

Notes: After briefly leading the league in home runs with 11 on May 5, Jeff Bagwell hasn't had one since. He was averaging one homer for every 11.1 at-bats up to that day, but hasn't had one in his last 62 at-bats for Houston. ... Astros leadoff hitter Craig Biggio has a team-high 37 strikeouts compared to only 14 walks. ... Tomko has allowed 34 runs (29 earned) this season, and 17 (12 earned) have come in the first inning.

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