Cardinals close gap on Reds 7-3

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Williams continues to shine for St. Louis since coming off disabled list.

By R.B. Fallstrom

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- The second start to Woody Williams' season has been almost perfect.

Williams pitched six scoreless innings and Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols homered as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-3 Monday night, taking three of four from the NL Central leaders.

"My mechanics were off, but shoot, are you kidding me?" Williams said. "I'll take that every time. I'm not a beggar."

The Cardinals have won nine of 11, shaving the Reds' lead to three games. They outscored Cincinnati 23-12 in the series.

"It's just nice we're starting to play competitive baseball," Williams said. "For so long, we were just getting run over."

Williams (1-0) hasn't allowed an earned run in 12 innings after spending more than five weeks on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his left side. He allowed five hits, striking out five and walking one, throwing 94 pitches.

"I was fighting my mechanics most of the night, and I guess that's why I threw so many pitches," Williams said. "I got by with a lot of pitches that usually if they're on top of their game, they don't let me get by with, but I'll definitely take it."

Williams allowed three consecutive hits in the fifth but escaped damage when Juan Encarnacion was out at the plate on a close play after a relay from Edmonds in center field on Austin Kearns' single.

"Obviously, I thought he was safe but I don't make the calls," said Kearns, who was standing on second. "It looked to me like he was in there, but that's just my opinion."

The play loomed larger after Jason LaRue hit his first homer of the season, a three-run shot off Dave Veres in the eighth. The homer ended a 15-inning scoreless streak by the St. Louis bullpen, which hadn't allowed an earned run in 27 innings.

"I was part of that," Veres said. "The end of it, too."

Edmonds hit his 10th homer, a two-run shot off Jimmy Haynes (3-5) in the third, to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead. Pujols hit his seventh with two outs in the fifth for a 5-0 lead.

Tino Martinez got St. Louis started with a two-run single in the first. He also singled and scored on Edgar Renteria's double in the sixth and is 9-for-25 (.360) against Reds pitching with two homers and seven RBIs.

Martinez has eight hits in his last 18 at-bats overall, raising his average to .224 after a slow start. He has at least one RBI in six of the last seven games, totaling 10 in that stretch.

Pinch-hitter Eduardo Perez added a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Haynes lasted five innings, giving up seven runs on six hits.

"It was a rough night," Haynes said. "You can't make mistakes against a good-hitting club like that. They make you pay."

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