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Updated: Friday, May 30, 2003 2:05 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
7 9 0
St. Louis Cardinals
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
4 11 3
W Saarloos (1-0)
L Fassero (0-2)
S Wagner (15)
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HOUSTON 7, ST. LOUIS 4
 

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- A strength for the St. Louis Cardinals turned into a weakness.

An error by shortstop Edgar Renteria led to the tying run as the Houston Astros scored four runs over the final two innings to post a 7-4 triumph over the Cardinals and gain a split of their four-game series.

St. Louis, which entered the game with a major league-leading .990 fielding percentage, made three errors, just the fifth time all year it was charged with more than one in a game.

None of the errors were more costly on Thursday than Renteria's fifth of the season. With one out in the eighth, Lance Berkman hit a grounder that went under Renteria's glove into left field, allowing Jeff Kent to score from second base and tie the game at 4-4.

"It was a tough game all the way around," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa , whose team committed two errors in Sunday's 8-7 loss at Pittsburgh. "I don't point fingers. There wasn't a routine play, that was an error. Those were all tough plays. It's just one of those games. Errors are just part of the game."

The Astros took the lead for good later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Brad Ausmus .

Third baseman Scott Rolen and left fielder Albert Pujols also had errors in the sixth inning when the Astros took a 3-1 lead.

Rolen overthrew first baseman Tino Martinez , allowing Jeff Bagwell to reach base. Bagwell took third when Pujols bobbled Berkman's single and came home on Orlando Merced 's sacrifice fly.

Kirk Saarloos (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win and Jeff Fassero (0-2) was tagged with the loss.

Renteria did have an RBI single in a three-run seventh that enabled the Cardinals to take a 4-3 lead.

Kent had a pair of doubles and his first two-base hit chased starter Matt Morris . Morris, bidding for his third straight shutout, allowed four runs - three earned - and six hits in 7 1/3 innings.

"I don't think there was anything good in (my performance)," Morris said. "I kept getting opportunities to go back out there. It just unfortunately didn't go our way today."

"We had some key hits," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "Kent had two big doubles for us. From our side, it was a good win for us."

Morris walked two, struck out six and threw 107 pitches before Fassero relieved. The 40-year-old Fassero fell behind Berkman before Renteria booted the grounder.

La Russa summoned Cal Eldred , who gave up a single to Merced that moved Berkman to third.

The Cardinals, who have lost 14 of their last 19 games by two runs or less, went quietly in their half of the eighth. In the ninth, Eldred gave up another hit and walked Bagwell before Mike Crudale came in and gave up Kent's two-run double.

Houston closer Billy Wagner gave up a leadoff single to J.D. Drew in the ninth. But Drew was erased when Pujols bounced into a double play and Wagner struck out Rolen for his 11th straight save and 15th in 16 opportunities.

The Cardinals stranded eight of their 10 runners against Astros starter Tim Redding .

"Today I was able to hold a powerful team to a minimum number of runs, which is what my task is every time I go out," Redding said. "I was trying to hit my spots today. I hit my spots with my fastball inside and outside."

Redding allowed just one run and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. Redding was lifted for Brad Lidge after Martinez followed back-to-back singles with a flyout.

Lidge was one strike away from getting out of the frame, but loaded the bases with a walk to Mike Matheny . He did strike out Morris, but gave up the lead in the seventh and was scored upon for the first time in 11 outings.

"It was one of those things where we never gave up," Lidge said. "I came and gave up Tim's win and didn't throw very well. To split the series is great and I think it is a sign of a lot of good things to come."

In the seventh, Miguel Cairo drew a leadoff walk and Orlando Palmeiro and Drew followed with singles. Pujols' sacrifice fly made it a one-run game.

After Rolen struck out, Renteria singled just inside the right field line to tie it. Drew, who took third on the hit, scored on Ausmus' first passed ball of the season.

Geoff Blum of Houston hit a solo homer in the first.

"I put us in a hole and we fought back and finally we took the lead in the seventh and turned around and gave it back in the eighth," Morris said. "We could pitch a little better than that."

Bagwell doubled in the fourth and scored on a groundout by Merced.

St. Louis halved the deficit in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double by Martinez.


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