Sunday, April 13, 2003

NL Games: Williams, Cardinals blank Astros

The Associated Press

HOUSTON - Woody Williams is just about the only pitcher who loves Minute Maid Park. Williams, a Houston native who played at Cy-Fair High School and the University of Houston, pitched six sharp innings to help the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Astros 3-0 Saturday night.

Williams (2-0) is 5-1 lifetime at Houston's hitter-friendly ballpark. The right-hander allowed six hits, walked two and struck out two, improving to 6-2 career with a 2.47 ERA against the Astros.

"It's fun to pitch here," Williams said. "I guess it's just a coincidence. I've been fortunate.

"But it's fun to pitch in front of my friends and family and to be at home. I dreamed about this when I was a kid. It's a dream come true. It's amazing for me to be out there and pitch here."

Jim Edmonds and Edgar Renteria hit RBI singles for the Cardinals, who snapped a three-game losing skid and won for only the second time in seven games.

They bounced right back from a tough loss the night before - when Jeff Kent hit a two-run homer off Matt Morris with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give Houston a 3-2 win.

The Cardinals are used to strong efforts from Williams. He has given up three earned runs or fewer in 25 of his last 26 starts.

"Ever since he's had those birds on his chest he's pitched like that every game," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's smart, he mixes up his pitches. He's a complete pitcher and he helps himself at the plate."

St. Louis' victory evened the three-game series between teams that have combined for the last seven NL Central titles.

Russ Springer, Jeff Fassero and Dustin Hermanson finished with hitless relief. Hermanson worked the ninth for his first save.

The Astros are growing weary of facing Williams.

"He pitched well," Houston starter Tim Redding said. "He does have our number. Certain guys just have it over certain teams. Right now, he'd probably like to face us 35 times this season so he could go 35-0."

Geoff Blum went 2-for-3 against Williams but most of his teammates struggled at the plate.

"It's the same as a hitter who does well against certain teams," Blum said. "It just makes you comfortable and the comfort factor is a big thing in the major leagues. It helps you to feel good. And I'm sure he felt even better with the stuff he had tonight."

Redding (0-1) gave up two runs and five hits in five innings. He walked four and struck out four but was outpitched by Williams.

"When you don't score any runs against them, they have to be doing something well," Astros manager Jimy Williams said. "(Williams) pitched a heck of a game. When he had to make some pitches, he made them."

St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the fifth after Mike Matheny led off with a single and moved to second on a single by Williams. Two outs later, Edmonds drove in Matheny with a single to center.

Edmonds has three homers and six RBIs against the Astros this season.

The Cardinals increased their lead to 2-0 in the sixth when Scott Rolen led off with a walk and went to third on a single by Tino Martinez. Rolen scored when Renteria hit into a double play.

Renteria added a two-out RBI single in the ninth off Brad Lidge.

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