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Updated: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 1:13 AM EDT
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ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Woody Williams pitched eight superb innings as the St. Louis Cardinals posted a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves .

Williams (1-3) became the last St. Louis starter to get a win and turned in his most effective outing of the young season. In his previous six starts, Williams had been tagged for 24 runs and 38 hits in 33 innings, but Tuesday he went past the seventh inning for the first time in 2004

The veteran righthander allowed one run and scattered four hits. He tied a season high with five strikeouts, walked two and threw 65 of 102 pitches for strikes.

Williams, who was limited to just five innings during spring training due to tendinitis in his pitching shoulder, won for just fifth time in his last 20 starts. He also avoided the first 0-4 start of his 12-year career by getting key outs.

"It's just nice to go out there and be under control and not allow the big inning," said Williams. "That's what has been biting me so far this season."

In the second, Williams issued a leadoff walk to former Cardinal J.D. Drew and gave out a one-out single to Johnny Estrada . But he got rookie Adam LaRoche to bounce into a double play.

With two outs in the seventh, Estrada reached on a error by second baseman Tony Womack and LaRoche singled. But with a chance to tie the game, Jesse Garcia flied out to center field.

"I was able to work both sides of the plate, keeping them off balance with the changeup and I kept the ball down," Williams said.

"In this league with quality hitters, if you miss your location, you're going to get damaged," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "That's just the way it is in this league. Woody's a real master of keeping guys off balance and hitting edges."

Williams retired 17 of the final 21 batters he faced and also pitched eight innings for the first time since July 11 against San Diego. He was relieved by Steve Kline , who worked a perfect ninth, extending St. Louis' bullpen's scoreless streak to 14 innings.

St. Louis improved to 7-11 at Busch Stadium and capitalized on three Atlanta errors to build a 3-0 lead.

Ray Lankford opened the second inning when he reached on Garcia's error at shortstop and scored on Mike Matheny 's forceout. Williams followed Matheny by reaching on LaRoche's miscue at first base, allowing Scott Rolen to score.

"You can't give good teams four or five outs in an inning," Atlanta left fielder Chipper Jones said. "That's the difference in us still having a chance to win."

In the sixth, Atlanta starter Jaret Wright misplayed Matheny's bunt for an error and Rolen scored. Tony Womack added an RBI single with two outs in the sixth and Edgar Renteria capped the scoring by leading off the eighth with his third homer of the season.

Wright (2-3) allowed four runs - one earned - and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"He pitched a great game," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said of Wright. "I thought he was outstanding. He should have probably had a shutout".

"The errors or what not doesn't bother me," Wright said. "I thought for the most part I had my stuff - the fastball, the sinker and the slider."

Atlanta lost for the seventh time in 10 games and was held to one run for the second straight game. The Braves' lone run came on Mark DeRosa 's run-scoring groundout in the second.

"Offensively we're not very good right now," Atlanta second baseman Marcus Giles said. "It's just sad to see when our starting pitchers are going out and throwing great games and we can't do anything to help them. That's the frustrating thing."

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