Sweeping KC aside

Monday, June 28, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The bottom of the St. Louis batting order decided it was time to carry Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen for a change.

Mike Matheny, Reggie Sanders, Hector Luna and So Taguchi combined for nine RBIs on Sunday in a 10-3 victory that gave the surging Cardinals their first sweep in Kansas City.

"That's huge," said Matheny, who had four RBIs and two of the Cardinals' 15 singles. "It's nice to have someone else doing it instead of relying on those guys too much."

Rolen and Edgar Renteria each had three hits and scored three runs. The Cardinals' fifth straight win pushed them a season-high 17 games over .500 and five games ahead in the NL Central.

They've won 13 of their last 17 on the road and are 8-1 in interleague games against Kansas City, Texas and Oakland.

"I have to say so far this year, it is the best ballclub we have faced," Royals manager Tony Pena said. "A real good offensive ballclub. They just knocked us around. It's very simple."

Sanders beamed when told of Pena's remarks.

"Oh, wow! That's very good to hear," he said. "We're all focused. We're all working hard. But it's still a long grind."

The fading Royals lost their fourth in a row and dropped a season-low 16 games under .500. They have been swept seven times and are winless since trading star center fielder Carlos Beltran to Houston on Thursday.

Rolen was 3-for-4 with an RBI single in the eighth. He also triggered a roar from the crowd in the eighth when he knocked both shortstop Angel Berroa and second baseman Tony Graffanino to the ground while trying to break up a double play.

The 240-pound Rolen, who managed to keep his feet while sending the Royals sprawling, had been hit by a pitch in the third and nearly hit on a pickoff attempt at first.

"He was an aggravated player at that point," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Jason Marquis (7-4) labored through five innings for his sixth win in eight starts..

The Cardinals scored three times off Jimmy Gobble (4-5) in the third on Matheny's two-run single and a sacrifice fly by Taguchi. Sanders and Luna each had an RBI single in the third.

Matheny's two-run single keyed a four-run fifth for the Cardinals, who also got an RBI grounder from Taguchi and a run-scoring single by Sanders.

"We're playing good Cardinals baseball, the kind of baseball this organization has stressed for 100 years. I hope that's true come October," La Russa said.

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