Cardinals 3, Astros 1

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ST. LOUIS (AP) – Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning to lift the St. Louis Cardinals over the Houston Astros 3-1 Monday.

The Cardinals rallied after six fruitless innings against Roy Oswalt, pitching in St. Louis for the first time since the Astros’ NL championship series clincher last fall. Jason Marquis worked seven strong innings for the NL Central leaders, who sent the Astros to their sixth loss in seven games.

Aaron Miles singled off Trever Miller (0-1) to start the seventh and John Rodriguez coaxed a full-count walk with two outs ahead of Pujols, who hit his major league-leading 25th homer off Chad Qualls on a 2-0 pitch.

Pujols, who also leads the majors with 64 RBIs, missed a chance against Oswalt when he struck out on three pitches with runners on first and second to end the fifth.

Marquis (7-4) has won his last four starts and is 5-1 against the Astros the last two seasons. He worked around early control problems that led to hit batters on consecutive pitches and to the Astros’ lone run on Preston Wilson’s infield hit in third. He struck out two, walked two and allowed only three hits.

Oswalt, who’s 0-2 in his last five starts, left with a 1-0 lead after holding the Cardinals to seven hits and a walk. He struck out five and stranded two runners in the first, fourth and fifth.

Last year, Oswalt was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two NLCS starts against the Cardinals, and he silenced them in Game 6 after Pujols’ dramatic homer off Brad Lidge won Game 5.

Craig Biggio became the 23rd player to reach 10,000 at-bats when he grounded out to end the seventh. Biggio also was one of three players hit by pitches from Marquis, extending his modern-day record in that category to 277.

Marquis hit Willy Taveras on a 3-1 pitch, then plunked Biggio on the next pitch with one out in the third. Morgan Ensberg walked with two outs and Taveras scored on Wilson’s sharp grounder to third that handcuffed Scott Rolen.

Jason Isringhausen, the Cardinals’ third pitcher, worked the ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances.

Notes: A sellout crowd of 45,509 was the largest at new Busch Stadium, boosted when about 5,000 seats in left field were used for the first time. That portion overlapped the old Busch, demolished last winter. … Lance Berkman got his 1,000th career hit on a sharp single off the right-field wall in the fifth. Berkman, hampered by a hyperextended right knee, started for the first time in three games. … The Astros are 8-17 on the road. … Jim Edmonds missed his third straight game with a lower abdomen injury. … David Eckstein was 3-for-5 for his 22nd multihit game of the season. He entered the game tied for the NL lead with Miguel Cabrera of Florida.

AP-ES-05-29-06 1919EDT

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