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Updated: Sunday, September 21, 2003 9:10 PM EDT
Houston Astros
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
4 12 0
St. Louis Cardinals
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
6 7 0
W Hitchcock (4-1)
L Robertson (15-8)
S Isringhausen (19)
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ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- The St. Louis Cardinals continue to prolong what the Houston Astros hope is the inevitable.

Edgar Renteria ripped a two-run double and Eli Marrero added an RBI single as the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the fifth inning to erase a deficit and post a 6-4 victory over the Astros.

Entering the game five games behind the National League Central Division-leading Astros with six to play, St. Louis fell into a 3-0 hole against Houston rookie Jeriome Robertson , who had won three straight decisions and owned a 2-0 mark against the Cardinals this season.

But So Taguchi drew St. Louis within a run with a two-run homer in the fourth and, after Jeff Kent 's RBI single in the top of the fifth, the Cardinals loaded the bases against Robertson with one out in the bottom of the inning.

Just four away from being the first NL shortstop to reach the 100-RBI plateau since Hubie Brooks in 1985, Renteria belted a 2-1 offering into the right field corner, plating two and knotting the game at 4-4.

"I went up to bat trying to keep inside and trying to hit the ball to the right side," Renteria said. "I'm not thinking too much, just trying to see the ball and hit it to right-center."

Ricky Stone relieved Robertson (15-8) and yielded a single by Marrero that scored Scott Rolen and gave the Cardinals the lead.

"It was great to contribute again and be a part of the win today," Marrero said. "This is a good team and it's a shame we're not there again this year. With some luck, things could change for us."

Sterling Hitchcock (4-1) got the win despite allowing four runs and eight hits in five innings. The lefthander, who walked four and struck out five, has won three of his four decisions since joining the starting rotation.

"The win was big for our club," Hitchcock said. "We have a great group of guys in this clubhouse, a solid lineup. It has been a lot of fun, a pitcher's dream to play here with this type of offense and defense behind you."

Three relievers combined for three scoreless innings before Jason Isringhausen worked around a hit and a walk to notch his 19th save.

Robertson took just his second loss in seven decisions, surrendering five runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings with four walks and two strikeouts.

The win maintained St. Louis' slim playoff hopes as any combination of three Cardinal losses or Houston wins will eliminate the Redbirds.

"It was a great win for us," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We got behind 3-0 and it looked bad. The Taguchi two-run homer gave us a big lift. ... It was a tough win and we're going to grind it out to the end of the season."

The Astros had their lead over the Chicago Cubs in the Central Division sliced to one-half game.

"We play the Giants tomorrow," Houston manager Jimy Williams said. "The thing about it is, when you get into September, you want to be in the hunt. We're definitely not only in the hunt, we're right there. So we can go home and hopefully get some well-pitched games and get some key hits. We know what's ahead of us."

After Fernando Vina flied out, Eduardo Perez stroked a ground-rule double to center. Robertson walked Albert Pujols and Rolen on nine pitches to load the bases for Renteria, who is on the verge of joining Honus Wagner as the only NL shortstops in history to have 200 hits and 100 RBI in the same season.

Renteria moved one hit closer to accomplishing the feat, smacking his 47th double to score Perez and Pujols and end Robertson's afternoon. Marrero delivered an infield single to make it 5-4, but Stone prevented further damage by retiring Mike Matheny and Taguchi.

"I was leaving the ball up and away. That's the last thing you want to do when you're ahead in a ballgame like this," Robertson said. "It's frustrating. You're trying to keep the ball down in the zone and get ground balls. It didn't work out that way today. Our guys battled to get runs on the board early and get us ahead in the game. For me to go out and give up walks is frustrating."

Pujols led off the seventh with a walk and came home on Rolen's double to cap the scoring.

Adam Everett was thrown out at third on pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino 's two-out single in the eighth to thwart a rally, and Craig Biggio was stranded at second in the ninth after a leadoff double.

Houston grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Lance Berkman , Raul Chavez and Everett hit consecutive one-out singles. In the fourth, it extended its advantage as Richard Hidalgo opened the inning with a walk and Berkman belted his 24th homer.

Renteria led off the bottom of the frame with a walk, advanced to third on two groundouts and scored when Taguchi deposited Robertson's first pitch over the left-center field wall, drawing the Cardinals within 3-2.

"It was a slider," Robertson said. "It wasn't a terrible pitch, but it was a pitch he could handle, obviously. He did a good piece of hitting right there to go down and get the ball."

With one out in the top of the fifth, Jeff Bagwell hit a ground-rule double before scoring on a single by Kent, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games, which matches the longest of his career.

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