ST. LOUIS – Jim Edmonds homered, doubled twice and had four RBIs, and Matt Morris remained unbeaten in nine starts to help the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-3 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

John Mabry and Mark Grudzielanek each had an RBI single in the Cardinals’ first regular-season home game involving a team from Washington. About half of the sellout crowd of 47,383 stayed for the end of the game after a 27-minute rain delay before the bottom of the seventh.

The NL Central leaders, who at 31-16 is off to the second-best start in franchise history, were 3-0 against the former Montreal Expos in spring training.

The children of former Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile removed their father’s jersey number 57 – which was up because it coincided with the number of home games left at Busch Stadium – from the right-field wall Friday night as part of the final-year countdown at the 40-year-old ballpark. Kile’s widow, Flynn Kile, made her first appearance at the stadium since Darryl Kile’s funeral in 2002.

Morris (5-0) worked seven innings and gave up three runs – two earned – on five hits with eight strikeouts and no walks to win his third consecutive start. He gave up all three runs on three hits and a throwing error by shortstop David Eckstein in the third but otherwise was in command, striking out the side in the first and working four perfect innings.

Edmonds, who had been in a 1-for-14 slump, hit a two-run homer to straightaway center in the first off Tony Armas Jr. (1-3). He added a two-run double in the third to match his season best for RBIs, also achieved in the opener April 5 at Houston, and was walked intentionally in the fifth ahead of Mabry’s RBI single that made it 5-3. He doubled to start the eighth, a half-inning after robbing Nick Johnson with a running catch at the warning track, and scored on Grudzielanek’s broken-bat single over a drawn-in infield against Luis Ayala.

Johnson had a two-run double and Brad Wilkerson had an RBI double in the third for the Nationals, who have lost four straight. On their off-day Thursday, the team made nine roster moves after a three-game road sweep at Cincinnati.

Armas faced the Cardinals for the first time since Aug. 8, 2001, and lasted five innings. He gave up five runs on five hits and five walks, falling to 0-6 with a 7.80 ERA on the road since April 10, 2003.

Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his 13th save in 13 chances.

Notes: Eckstein has four errors in five games this week. He had a career-worst three errors on Sunday and has nine on the season, three more than all last season. … The Cardinals’ start is second in franchise history only to a 33-14 record in 1941. The 1941 team finished second. … Yadier Molina had five straight hits over two games before lining out to center to end the second. Molina was 0-for-4. … In his last two starts, Armas has given up 12 runs in 12 innings. … Cristian Guzman had been in a 1-for-33 slump before singling to start the third. … The Cardinals are 84-49 in Morris’ starts since 2001 and Morris is 53-26 for his career at home.

AP-ES-05-27-05 2330EDT

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