Astros hammer Cardinals

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

HOUSTON -- Roy Oswalt became the NL's first 19-game winner, and the Houston Astros stayed close in the wild-card race with a 10-3 victory over the Cardinals on Monday night.

The Astros began the day 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs, who lead the wild-card standings. San Francisco is a half-game ahead of Houston.

Pinch-hitter Jason Lane homered and Craig Biggio hit a two-run double to end his longest hitless streak of the season. Carlos Beltran added a two-run triple, Ensberg had a two-run double, and Jeff Bagwell and Raul Chavez singled in runs to send the Astros to their fourth win in five games.

The victory snapped St. Louis' five-game winning streak. The Cardinals already clinched the NL Central title and the best record in the league -- but their leadoff hitter went down with an injury Monday night.

Speedy second baseman Tony Womack left in the seventh inning after being hit on the left arm by a pitch from Oswalt. Womack writhed in pain on the ground before coming out moments later. He was gingerly clutching his arm at his side as he was escorted back to the dugout.

Oswalt (19-10) pitched six scoreless innings before allowing a couple of runs in the seventh. He gave up nine hits, striking out six and walking one as he inched closer to his first 20-win season.

The right-hander is 6-1 in his last eight starts.

The Astros continued to emerge from an offensive funk after beating Milwaukee 11-7 on Sunday. Before that, Houston scored more than two runs only once in six games.

In the second inning, Ensberg and Biggio had two-run doubles, and Chavez and Bagwell added run-scoring singles to give Houston a 6-0 lead.

Beltran's two-run triple in the fourth chased Woody Williams (11-8). The Astros added another run on Lance Berkman's sacrifice fly in the sixth to take a nine-run lead.

Reggie Sanders and Marlon Anderson singled in runs in the seventh for St. Louis. Lane homered in the eighth to extend Houston's lead.

Anderson added an RBI single in the ninth.

Williams gave up eight runs and 10 hits in three innings, tying his shortest outing of the season. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in his previous four starts.

Notes: Oswalt got his 200th strikeout of the season, the second time in his career he's reached that mark. ... RHP Roger Clemens will start Wednesday against St. Louis, but his next appearance is still being discussed with manager Phil Garner. Clemens is almost certain to take the mound during one of Houston's three games against Colorado next weekend. "I wanted to save all my energy for what's coming down this week," Clemens said. "I wouldn't even be opposed to two or three innings the very next day, if I had to." ... Sanders got the first two hits of his career against Oswalt. He's now 2-for-9. ... Lane hit his second pinch-hit homer of the season.

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