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Finley debuts with a win; Cards boost division lead
ST. LOUIS -- A routine eye exam has made all the difference for Eduardo Perez.
Perez, Jim Edmonds and Tino Martinez all homered, powering the St. Louis Cardinals to an 8-4 victory Friday night over the Chicago Cubs.
Chuck Finley, acquired last Friday in a trade with Cleveland, won in his Busch Stadium debut before the largest crowd of the season at 48,730. Edgar Renteria got two hits to reach 1,000 in his career.
Perez delivered the night's biggest blow, a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the sixth inning to give St. Louis an 8-3 lead.
Tired of wearing hard contacts, Perez had lasik surgery in Puerto Rico last winter and hit well in spring training. But he began to fade once the season started.
Finally, he went to his eye doctor in St. Louis.
"I found out my vision had went to 20-35 and 20-30 and while that's fine for people, it's not so good for a ballplayer," Perez said. "I found you can have setbacks with the surgery. It's not like hearing. It was the best I could see.
"So, I went in for an exam and I was embarrassed to tell him I was hitting .130. I got some soft contacts and now I can see the rotation of the ball. I'm so glad I got that exam."
Perez was one of many heroes for the Cardinals, who had 13 hits.
"We were a good looking baseball team today, the way we played," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
Finley (2-0) gave up three runs and five hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking none.
After allowing a leadoff home run to Mark Bellhorn, Finley blanked the Cubs until Chris Stynes hit a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth that cut the St. Louis lead to 5-3. At one point, Finley retired 11 consecutive hitters in his 195th career win.
"He was outstanding," La Russa said. "He gave up a 3-2 fastball to the leadoff hitter and gives up a home run. Then he got a fastball up to Stynes and he hit it out. Between that, he was outstanding."
The Cardinals have dominated the Cubs at home, winning 17 of the past 19 games between the teams at Busch Stadium. St. Louis has beaten Chicago in five straight games overall.
"The best way to describe this team is I got outmanaged, we got outcoached and the players got outplayed," Chicago manager Bruce Kimm said. "We got beat in all phases."
Jon Lieber (6-8) gave up eight runs and 11 hits in six innings to lost his fourth straight decision. Chicago has scored just five runs in his last four starts.
"I was terrible," Lieber said. "I had bad location on a lot of pitches and I did a terrible job out there tonight. Bottom line, I just stunk."
Edmonds hit a two-run homer in the first inning to give St. Louis the lead.
The Cardinals added a run in the third when Finley reached on an infield hit when first baseman Fred McGriff and Lieber both went for the slow roller and Finley beat Lieber to first. Finley slipped on the base and landed hard but he was OK.
"First think I did was check to see if there were any bones sticking out," Finley said. "I lost some skin out there."
A single by Kerry Robinson, who had a season-high three hits, and an intentional walk to Edmonds loaded the bases for Albert Pujols, who hit a sacrifice fly.
Martinez, returning to action since leaving Tuesday's game in San Francisco with back spasms, homered to lead off the fourth inning.
"Cream rises to the top," La Russa said. "There's nobody better at the professional side of it than Tino Martinez."
Renteria and Mike Matheny each singled and advanced on Finley's sacrifice before Renteria scored on Robinson's groundout for a 5-1 St. Louis lead.
The Cardinals answered Stynes' homer in the sixth when Perez pinch hit for Finley and hit a pitch from Lieber for a three-run homer. Finley had thrown just 69 pitches.
"We had a chance to blow the game open," La Russa said about his decision to lift Finley. "If this was the American League, he'd still be pitching."
It was the second pinch-hit homer this season for Perez and the fifth of his career.