ST. LOUIS – Jason Marquis pitched eight sharp innings to earn his first victory in more than a month, and Larry Walker hit a three-run homer to help the St. Louis Cardinals continue their dominance of the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium with a 4-2 win Saturday.

Dating back to Game 1 of last year’s National League championship series, the Cardinals have beaten the Astros nine straight at home. St. Louis has won eight of 10 against Houston overall this year and 28 of 37 against the NL Central.

The loss snapped Houston right-hander Roy Oswalt’s six-start winning streak. Prior to Saturday, Oswalt (12-8) had not lost since dropping a 3-1 decision to the New York Mets on June 7. He had an ERA of 0.96 in his previous six starts.

But like the rest of his teammates, Oswalt has struggled at Busch Stadium. He gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings Saturday. On April 5, Oswalt allowed six runs and 11 hits.

Marquis (9-6) had been struggling for the past month. The win was his first in six starts dating to June 10. He allowed two runs on six hits and two walks.

Jason Isringhausen pitched a scoreless ninth for his 26th save in 29 chances. The save was his 127th for the Cardinals, tying him with Bruce Sutter for third on the Cardinals’ all-time saves list.

The Astros had won seven of eight coming into this series. But Houston has dropped the first two games to fall below .500 (44-45) and into third place in the NL Central, 131/2 games back of St. Louis.

Morgan Ensberg’s two-run homer in the first inning gave the Astros an early 2-0 lead. The homer was his 25th, tying a career high set in 2003 and gave him a new career best for RBIs (67).

Oswalt held the lead until the fifth, when Marquis led off with a ground-rule double over center fielder Willy Taveras’ head. David Eckstein sacrificed him to third and Jim Edmonds drove him in with a single to right.

Albert Pujols followed with a single to right, sending Edmonds to third. Walker worked Oswalt to a full-count before hitting a breaking ball over the wall in right to make it 4-2.

Marquis settled down after the first inning, allowing just four hits over the next seven innings.

Notes: Houston had won seven consecutive series coming into this three-game set. … Marquis’ double was his National League-leading 16th hit as a pitcher. He also has one pinch hit. … Craig Biggio’s third-inning double was hit No. 2,731 for his career, moving him past Barry Bonds and into 49th place on the all-time list. Next up are Tony Perez (2,732) and Goose Goslin (2,735). … After collecting five hits all month, Mark Grudzielanek has five hits in the first two games of the series. … Lance Berkman, who has reached base in 25 of his last 26 games, went 2-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. … St. Louis starters have allowed three runs or less in the last nine games.

AP-ES-07-16-05 1843EDT


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