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Updated: Thursday, May 29, 2003 1:58 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
1 6 0
St. Louis Cardinals
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
3 9 0
W Simontacchi (2-3)
L Johnson (0-1)
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ST LOUIS 3, HOUSTON 1
 

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Jason Simontacchi did his best to impersonate Matt Morris .

Averaging less than five innings per start over his previous nine outings this season, Simontacchi pitched his first career complete game to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros .

Simontacchi (2-3) entered with a 7.57 ERA but allowed just one run - a solo homer by Lance Berkman in the fourth inning - and six hits to earn his first win in nearly four weeks.

"I believe I'm a better pitcher than what I've shown, so I just tried to simplify things and give it what I had," said Simontacchi, who struck out five and walked none. "Everything worked tonight. I worked ahead of guys, threw my off-speed pitches for strikes and just kept them off balance."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa must have thought he was watching his ace Morris, who has thrown two straight shutouts and is slated to pitch in the finale of the four-game series on Thursday.

"That's a big success to pitch nine innings against that club in a game where there wasn't any leeway," La Russa said. "This should give him some confidence."

Simontacchi lasted more than six innings in just two previous starts this season. His last win came here on May 2, when he allowed one run in eight innings of an 8-1 rout of Montreal.

"When a control pitcher beats you, you do get a little bit more frustrated because you don't feel like you were blown away," said Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell . "You don't have to throw 95 (miles per hour) to get guys out, and Simontacchi did that tonight."

Miguel Cairo snapped a 1-1 tie with an RBI double in the fifth inning and scored on a two-base hit by J.D. Drew.

Houston's Jonathan Johnson (0-1), who had his contract purchased from Class AAA New Orleans earlier in the day, made his first start since his major league debut for Texas on September 27, 1998. He lasted 5 2/3 innings and yielded three runs and eight hits.

"I'm glad to get it over with," said Johnson, who threw three hitless innings before giving up one run in the fourth and two in the fifth. "There was a lot of anticipation coming into today. It's not that I was nervous as much as anxious. But I feel like this is one to build on."

Johnson is the ninth pitcher to make a start for the Astros through the first 53 games of the season. They utilized 11 different starters all of last season.

"I had no idea how he (Johnson) was going to pitch, but he had good mound presence out there," said Astros manager Jimy Williams . "We just couldn't score. But he (Johnson) kept us in the game, and that's all you can ask."

The win may have come at a steep price for the Cardinals. Center fielder Jim Edmonds left the game in the bottom of the second inning with severely bruised ribs. He suffered the injury making a diving catch on a sinking liner by Brad Ausmus in the top of the second.

"Usually when you dive in the outfield, you slide a little bit in the grass, and it just stuck," Edmonds said. "It felt like everything just stretched."

He left the game after fouling off a pitch in the bottom of the inning.

"It's very serious," said Cardinals trainer Barry Weinberg. "He has a bruised rib and he has a slight separation of the cartilage that attaches the rib to the cartilage. Right now, without overreacting, we'll see how he is Saturday and Sunday."

The Astros played without Jeff Kent , who bruised his left hip in Tuesday's game and is listed as day-to-day.

Berkman hit his eighth home run of the season in the fourth inning, but the Cards tied the game in the bottom half on an RBI single by Scott Rolen , who has 12 hits in his last 23 at-bats.

Simontacchi reached on a fielder's choice in the fifth and scored all the way from first on Cairo's two-out double. Drew followed with his RBI double.


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