ST. LOUIS (AP) – Chris Carpenter is coming out on top against all of the National League’s aces.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ right-hander threw a three-hitter Tuesday night to become the major leagues’ first 16-game winner in a 3-1 victory over Dontrelle Willis and the Florida Marlins.

John Gall drove in the first two runs of his career and Jim Edmonds had an RBI single for the Cardinals, who have won five of eight and have the NL’s best record at 67-39. St. Louis, which has beaten up on the Central division with a 32-13 record, improved to 8-9 against the tougher competition in the East.

Carpenter (16-4) beat Roger Clemens in his first start after throwing a scoreless inning in the All-Star game, and bested Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte earlier in the season. He won his eighth straight decision in nine starts and Willis, who hit the first two batters he faced to set the tone for a wild, 103-pitch, five-inning outing, couldn’t keep up.

Carpenter allowed only a leadoff double in the first to Juan Pierre and a third-inning single to Juan Castillo, striking out six and walking one. In his last nine starts, Carpenter is 8-0 with an 0.83 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 11 walks in 75 2-3 innings. His overall ERA dropped to 2.26.

He needed only 109 pitches, 81 strikes, to throw his fifth complete game of the season and the 18th of his career.

Carpenter gave up a run in the first when Pierre lined the second pitch of the game to the right-field corner and scored on Jeff Conine’s one-out sacrifice fly. He settled down in the second, needing only seven pitches to retire the 6-7-8 batters in order, and retired 14 in a row between the third and eighth.

Willis (14-7) allowed three runs – one earned – on three hits with four strikeouts and three walks. He threw seven shutout innings in his previous start but has lost four of his last five starts, giving up 24 earned runs in 25 innings, and has lost his last three road starts as well.

For his career, Willis is 29-10 before the All-Star break and 9-14 after.

Willis worked out of self-inflicted trouble in the first, when he hit David Eckstein and So Taguchi and then walked Mark Grudzielanek with two outs to load the bases. He escaped on Gall’s infield popup.

The Cardinals loaded the bases in the eighth against Ron Villone but got nothing when Carpenter was called out for interference when he missed on a squeeze attempt, the ball glanced off catcher Paul Lo Duca’s glove and Lo Duca couldn’t get around Carpenter for a tag play at the plate.

Under baseball rule 7.08g, the runner should have been out.

Gall gave the Cardinals the lead in the third on a two-run, two-out double, a sinking liner that right fielder Juan Encarnacion dived for but could not handle. Edmonds, 9-for-23 during a six-game hitting streak with three homers, made it 3-1 with an RBI single in the fifth.

Notes: A Beatles tribute band, Liverpool Legends, played a one-hour concert before the game on the 39th anniversary of the rock group’s appearance in St. Louis on Aug. 21, 1966. The band played from a setup at second base. … 1B Carlos Delgado missed his sixth straight game with a sore left elbow. … John Rodriguez, who has three homers, eight RBIs and a .356 average in 14 games since being called up the Cardinals, on Tuesday was named the organization’s minor league player of the month. At Triple-A Memphis he hit .375 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 14 July games. … Both benches were warned after Villone hit Rodriguez in the eighth.

AP-ES-08-02-05 2238EDT

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