Astros take series from sloppy Cards

Friday, September 17, 2004

By R.B. Fallstrom ~ The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Kent had two doubles and four RBIs, and the Cardinals committed a season-high four errors to help the Houston Astros snap Jason Marquis' 11-game winning streak with an 8-3 victory on Thursday night.

The Astros took two of three from the NL Central leaders, staying two games behind the Giants in the wild-card race and keeping the Cardinals' magic number for clinching the division at four.

Albert Pujols and John Mabry homered for the Cardinals. Pujols has a career-best 44 home runs -- one more than last year -- and his first-inning shot off Brandon Backe was his first long ball in 11 games.

St. Louis had two errors in the third and two more in the fourth, contributing to three unearned runs.

Hector Luna, subbing for Edgar Renteria at shortstop, had two miscues to equal his season total. He lost his grip on the ball and overthrew a relay to the plate, then threw the ball into the stands on Brad Ausmus' grounder in the fourth.

Kent has six RBIs in the last two games, giving him 98 on the season, and Mike Lamb added his 13th homer for the Astros.

Marquis (14-5) lost for the first time in 18 starts since May 26, giving up seven runs -- four earned -- on five hits in six innings. His winning streak was the longest by a Cardinals pitcher since John Tudor also won 11 straight decisions in 1985.

Marquis hurt himself both in the field and on the bases. He flubbed Lamb's high chopper to the mound in the third, allowing a run to score, and settled for a single on a drive to the center-field wall in the third even though no one was covering second. The Cardinals ended up leaving the bases loaded.

Kent had a two-run double in the first on a bloop to shallow center that a hard-charging Jim Edmonds trapped before the ball popped out of his glove. A pair of walks by Marquis set the table for Kent's RBI double in the third, and Luna's aborted relay handed Houston another run for a 5-1 lead. Kent added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Chad Harville (2-2) relieved Backe in the fifth after the Cardinals put two men on with no outs. Harville induced Pujols into a double play, then struck out Edmonds. The right-hander hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 11 outings, covering 11 1-3 innings.

Mabry's home run in the fourth inning ended an 0-for-12 slump.

Notes: Tony La Russa managed his 3,943rd game, passing Gene Mauch for fifth place on the career list. ... Kent has five four-RBI games this season. ... The Astros went 4-4 on their road trip. ... Pujols is 2-for-4 against Backe with two homers. ... Lance Berkman was 7-for-11 with three RBIs in the series. ... St. Louis reliver Julian Tavarez left the game after injuring his left leg on a strikeout pitch of Berkman.

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