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Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2003 2:32 AM EDT
St. Louis Cardinals
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
7 13 2
Houston Astros
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
4 9 0
W Williams (6-0)
L Munro (3-2)
S Eldred (4)
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HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Woody Williams allowed five hits in seven innings and remained unbeaten this season and Albert Pujols homered and drove in a season-high four runs as the St. Louis Cardinals posted a 7-4 triumph over the Houston Astros .

Williams (6-0) is a Texas native and continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in the National League. The 36-year-old righthander picked up his ninth straight win, remained unbeaten since August 29 and notched career victory No. 80 with another solid effort.

"It's always fun (coming home)," Williams said. "I have family and friends up there (in the stands). It's a comfortable feel to sleep in your own bed."

Allowing two earned runs, Williams walked two and struck out six in improving to 7-2 lifetime against Houston. The Cardinals are 26-11 in his starts since being acquired in 2001 and he has allowed three earned runs or less in all but three of his last 33 outings.

"He wasn't pinpoint sharp, but he always has the same insides, the same attitude," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "It was another outstanding performance."

"He throws quality pitches," Houston third baseman Morgan Ensberg said. "He throws them on every count. He keeps the ball down and hits the corners."

Pujols staked Williams to an early lead with a three-run homer in the first inning. His 13th homer of the season was his fourth in five games and the 23-year-old slugger is batting .385 over his last seven games.

"I just try to see the ball, I get lucky sometimes," Pujols said. "It's a good park to hit in. It doesn't matter what park.

"That's how he swings every day," La Russa added. "He doesn't have any dry spells."

St. Louis jumped on Pete Munro (3-2) for three runs before the Astros starter recorded an out. Fernando Vina led off with a single and J.D. Drew followed with a base hit to right. Pujols then hit a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall for a 3-0 lead.

"You want to score right away, get some early runs, take some pressure off the pitcher," Pujols added.

Williams admitted the early lead made things much easier.

"It's definitely nice," Williams said. "You don't have to be that sharp. The last few games I haven't been that sharp in the early innings. I made some good pitches (tonight), and some bad ones. That's a tough lineup over there."

After Houston turned a leadoff double into a run in the second, St. Louis scored twice in the third. Drew got the offense going with a single and Pujols was hit by a pitch. Edmonds made it 4-1 with a single to right and Scott Rolen walked, ending Munro's night.

Brandon Puffer came on and got Edgar Renteria to bounce into a double play that plated Pujols for a 5-1 lead.

"I felt fine," Munro said. "My arm adjusted well and mentally I adjusted well. It was just one of those days that I didn't pitch well."

Houston left a runner at third base in the third and the Cardinals tacked on another run in the fourth. Williams and Vina opened the inning with singles and Pujols came through with a two-out base hit that scored the St. Louis starter.

The Astros scored a run in their half of the fourth on a groundout by Brad Ausmus , but Williams stranded a pair of runners in scoring position when he retired Adam Everett on a comebacker.

Renteria's sixth homer of the season, a solo shot in the seventh, extended the Cardinals' lead to 7-2.

Houston got single runs in the seventh and eighth and threatened in the ninth.

Cal Eldred , who struck out Brad Ausmus to end the eighth, allowed a leadoff single to Everett in the ninth. One out later, Craig Biggio and Morgan Ensberg had consecutive base hits to produce a run. With Jeff Bagwell representing the tying run, Eldred got the Astros slugger to bounce into a game-ending double play.

"We had some chances and had the right people up," Houston manager Jimy Williams said.

"It's always right down to the wire with them, and it has been for a long time," Bagwell said of the rivalry between the teams. "It's fun, because they're always good, close games. But obviously you don't want to play a whole season of games like that. It would make you old fast."

Eldred's save was his fourth in five opportunities.

St. Louis' win was just its fourth in 14 road games and evened their mark against division opponents in 2003 at 13-13.

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