Cards hold off Cubs, win series opener 7-6

Saturday, May 22, 2004

CHICAGO -- Early or late, the St. Louis Cardinals are managing to get enough offense to win.

Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds hit consecutive home runs, and the Cardinals hung on for a 7-6 victory over their division rival Chicago Cubs on Friday.

Ray Lankford had three hits with an RBI, a run scored and a steal, and Tony Womack and Mike Matheny also drove in runs.

"We know how it is with the Cubs," said closer Jason Isringhausen, who pitched a perfect ninth to seal the victory.

"We always want to beat the Cubs, they always want to beat us. It's just fun to get a win. We can go out to dinner tonight, have a good time, and come back in the morning and do it all over again."

Moises Alou almost spoiled those plans, though. The Cardinals didn't get a hit after the fifth inning, and Alou cut their lead to one with a three-run homer in the seventh.

It's the third straight day he's gone deep late in the game. He homered to win the game in the 10th inning Wednesday night, and tied Thursday's game with a home run in the seventh.

"It's not a beach ball, I only got one hit today," Alou said. "I'm just trying to be aggressive and try to hit the ball hard. I got some good wood. They happen to happen in clutch situations."

Alou had another chance in the ninth, but struck out to end the game.

The victory was the Cardinals' third straight and moved them a season-high four games above .500.

Michael Barrett, moved up to the No. 2 spot in Chicago's lineup, homered in his first two at-bats for his second career two-home run game, and Todd Walker hit a solo shot.

"We scored six runs," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Usually that's good enough to win."

Not against St. Louis these days. The Cardinals scored nine of their 11 runs in the last four innings Thursday, six in the ninth alone.

They didn't wait that long Friday, taking advantage of rookie Sergio Mitre's inconsistency with four runs in the second and three more in the fifth.

Edgar Renteria doubled to shallow left in the second and advanced to third on a double steal with Reggie Sanders. He took a big lead off third and scored when Mitre threw a wild pitch. Matheny then doubled inside the right-field line to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.

Womack and Lankford added RBI singles before Mitre finally got Pujols to ground out and end the inning.

"I thought I was making good pitches," Mitre said. "They were just hitting them where (the Cubs are) not. Like I said, it was a bunch of little things that amounted to four runs."

The Cardinals added three more runs in the fifth on the homers by Pujols and Edmonds.

"I thought he had good stuff," Edmonds said. "I didn't really see too many pitches he gave us to hit. Today a couple of mistakes were made and they were hit for home runs on both sides."

Mitre (2-3) gave up seven runs and 10 hits in five innings. He also threw two wild pitches, one on a pitchout.

"These are mistakes you make while you're young," Baker said. "You've got to live with them. You don't like them, but you have to live with them."

With his team riddled by injuries, Baker has been tweaking his lineup in hopes of finding a combination that works. He moved Barrett up to the second spot Friday, and the move paid off immediately.

Barrett sent Chris Carpenter's 3-1 pitch over the left-field fence and onto Waveland Avenue in the first inning, and homered into the stands in left in the third.

Carpenter (5-1) gave up three runs, all homers, and eight hits in six innings.

"We haven't been playing very well all year. ... Hopefully we're starting to put it together," Edmonds said. "We just go out there now and try to win the series. Whatever happens, happens and we go from there."

Notes: With three more steals Friday, the Cardinals have an NL-best 37. ... After going a season-long eight games without a homer, Pujols now has two in as many days. ... Alou also homered in three straight games April 14-16. ... Barrett's other two-homer game was April 15 against Pittsburgh.

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