Williams pitches Cards past Astros

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- A throbbing sinus headache that left his head feeling like a "bowling ball" couldn't stop Woody Williams from becoming the second seven-game winner in the National League.

Williams (7-0) beat the Houston Astros for the second straight start, and Scott Rolen was 3-for-3 with three RBIs in the St. Louis Cardinals' 10-5 victory Monday.

"He looks the same every time out there and I think that's one of his really good qualities," manager Tony La Russa said of Williams. "He knows how he feels, but he never tips it off."

J.D. Drew hit a three-run homer, Mike Matheny was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and Tino Martinez homered as part of a 14-hit outburst. The Cardinals have won three of four and began a 14-game homestand, their longest of the season.

Williams won his 10th consecutive decision over 14 starts dating to Aug. 29 last season at Cincinnati. In six innings, he allowed one run on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks, lowering his ERA to an NL-best 2.19.

"He's been doing this stuff all year long," Houston's Craig Biggio said. "That's why he's 7-0."

Williams joined Kevin Millwood of the Phillies as the league's only seven-game winners, although he had a few shaky moments. Williams hit Morgan Ensberg in the shoulder and Jeff Kent in the back with pitches in the first to load the bases before getting Lance Berkman on a called third strike and Orlando Merced on a flyout.

"I just didn't feel good," Williams said. "It was real bad early on until the medicine kicked in, and I was just fortunate to get through it."

The Astros had two on with nobody out in the fifth before Ensberg, Jeff Bagwell and Kent were retired in order. Houston finally broke through in the sixth on a single by Berkman, a double by Merced and an RBI groundout by Brad Ausmus.

Biggio had four hits for the Astros, and Berkman hit a three-run homer in the ninth. They had been 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position before Berkman's home run.

The Cardinals battered Pete Munro (3-3) for six runs, five earned, on eight hits in 3 1-3 innings. Jim Edmonds and Rolen had consecutive RBI doubles in the first, and Rolen's sacrifice fly made it 3-0 in the third.

In the fourth, Drew hit his fourth homer to straightaway center and Rolen hit an RBI double for a 7-0 lead. Martinez homered off the right-field foul pole, and Albert Pujols added a two-run double off Brandon Puffer to make it 10-0 in the fifth.

Munro lasted only two innings against the Cardinals in his last start, giving up five runs in a 7-4 loss May 21.

"I felt a little bit better going against them than I did last week," Munro said. "But that home run to J.D. really got me.

"They hit some good pitches that apparently weren't good enough."

Tripp Cromer hit an RBI triple for the Astros in the seventh as Drew missed a diving attempt in right field.

After the game, the Cardinals placed second baseman and leadoff hitter Fernando Vina on the 15-day disabled list with a severely torn right hamstring. The injury will sideline him six-to-12 weeks, depending on whether surgery is performed.

Noteworthy

Martinez is 5-for-40 (.125) with runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals have scored 46 first-inning runs in 49 games, their best offensive inning.

Williams has allowed three or fewer runs in 31 of his last 34 regular-season starts with the Cardinals.

Williams is the first Cardinals pitcher to start the season 7-0 since Garrett Stephenson opened 8-0 in 2000.

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