Cards hit 40 games over. 500

Monday, August 23, 2004

By R.B. Fallstrom ~ The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Fouling off pitch after pitch until he got a fastball to his liking, Edgar Renteria set the tone for another victory for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Renteria capped a 13-pitch at-bat in the first inning with a three-run homer off Ryan Vogelsong and matched his career high with five RBIs, leading the way in an 11-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

Renteria was 9-for-18 in the series and had nine RBIs in an eight-game homestand.

"That might have been the best at-bat I've seen all year," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "My hat's off to Edgar. It was just an outstanding at-bat."

Larry Walker hit a grand slam, the seventh of his career and second in five days, in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach for the Cardinals, who have the majors' best record at 82-42 after winning 15 of their last 19 games.

St. Louis won four of five against the Pirates, who had won their four previous series and had a four-game winning streak against the Cardinals after taking the series opener.

After a 6-2 homestand, the Cardinals are 40 games above .500 for the first time since the last game of their pennant-winning season in 1985, when they finished 101-61. St. Louis has won eight straight series and 14 of the last 15 heading into an off-day Monday that ends a stretch of 14 games in 13 days.

"It means we're really good," Walker said.

Matt Morris (13-8) allowed two runs and 10 hits for the win after a rough start. Steve Kline got five outs for his third save in four chances.

"I hit some bumps early in this game, but I was able to stay focused and get outs," Morris said. "Like we've been saying all along, this offense is unbelievable.

"You stay in there long enough, they're going to do some damage."

Jason Bay homered and went 4-for-4 with two RBIs for the Pirates. Bay and Rob Mackowiak each drove in a run in the first for Pittsburgh, which began the game with four hits in five at-bats.

Bad beginnings have been a problem all year for Morris, who has given up first-inning runs in 11 of his 26 starts, allowing 28 overall. But Morris, who tied Chris Carpenter for the staff lead in victories, allowed five hits in his last six innings.

Morris, who struck out six and walked one, added a sacrifice fly in the fourth off Vogelsong (4-10) that put the Cardinals ahead 4-2.

Renteria fouled off seven pitches after an 0-2 count before hitting his ninth homer on a full count into the Cardinals' bullpen in right field. The homer scored Walker, who had drawn a walk on 10 pitches, and came right after Jim Edmonds was walked intentionally with Walker on second and two outs.

The intentional walk served as motivation for Renteria.

"So I had to do something," he said. "Thank God I did it. I fouled off all of those pitches and I finally got the pitch I was looking for."

Vogelsong doesn't know how that at-bat got away from him.

"I had him right where I wanted him," Vogelsong said. "He worked me into a count where if I don't throw him a strike, I load the bases."

Renteria's two-run bases-loaded single off Mark Corey in the seventh put the Cardinals ahead 7-2. The single came after Corey walked Edmonds with the bases loaded.

Reliever Jason Simontacchi gave up three straight hits in the eighth: Bay's 18th homer, a double by Tike Redman and an RBI single by Ty Wigginton to cut the gap to 7-4.

Walker then blew open the game with his slam off Brian Meadows in the eighth. He's batting .304 with four homers, 15 RBIs and 13 walks in 14 games with the Cardinals, and the slam merited his second curtain call of the homestand.

"I don't think anybody on this team has problems doing curtain calls," Walker said. "If we're doing that, we're doing something right and we've probably got the lead. The more, the better."

Vogelsong is 1-3 in his last four starts overall and is 0-3 with a 10.38 ERA against the Cardinals. He lasted six innings, allowing four runs on five hits.

Notes: Morris is 7-4 with a 2.14 ERA for his career against the Pirates. ... Morris has allowed 28 homers, second-most in the NL, but he's surrendered only four in 67 1-3 innings over his last 11 starts. ... Edmonds has reached base by hit or walk in 45 straight games. He also singled off the left-field wall in the third, getting held to one base by a nice play from Bay, and is 9-for-19 during a seven-game hitting streak. ... Renteria has four five-hit games, the last coming on Sept. 18, 2003, against Milwaukee. ... LF Reggie Sanders nearly robbed Bay of his homer, but the impact of hitting the wall knocked the ball loose from his glove.

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