MLB Insiders - Carpenter Wins #50

Chris Carpenter posted his 50th victory as a Cardinal and moved one shy of 100 for his career when he tossed his third shutout of the season, beating Houston 7-0 Monday night.

Carpenter also lowered his National League-leading ERA to 2.84 as he heightened his candidacy for a second consecutive Cy Young Award. Carpenter (14-6) is behind only Minnesota's Johan Santana (2.75) for the best ERA among all major league starters.

"He was hitting corner after corner with a bunch of different pitches," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's as good as anybody pitching in the big leagues today. Whatever that top class is, there isn't anybody better than him."

Second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who was 0 for his last 20, singled to cap a two-run third inning and tripled with the bases loaded to climax a five-run fourth.

Belliard had driven in only 10 runs in his first 35 games as a Cardinal, but La Russa said, "He's a winning player."

The Cardinals reduced their magic number to 15 for clinching the National League Central title as they pushed the Astros six games back. Cincinnati is five games off the pace.

REPLAY: Right-hander Chris Carpenter allowed six singles in pitching his 12th career shutout, and the Cardinals dumped the Astros 7-0 Monday.

Carpenter got the only assistance he needed when Juan Encarnacion delivered a two-out, run-scoring single in the third inning. Ronnie Belliard took care of the rest, driving in four runs.

--3B Scott Rolen drove in his first run of the month with a fifth-inning groundout. Houston 1B Lance Berkman prevented a hit with a diving stop.

--RHP Chris Carpenter, the winner Monday, is 7-3 at Busch Stadium with a National League-leading 1.47 ERA at home.

--The Cardinals' win was just their 23rd in 45 night games at home. They are 20-4 in the daytime at Busch Stadium.

--LF Scott Spiezio doubled and scored Monday. He is 7-for-19 (.368) in his last five starts.

--The top three hitters in the St. Louis order -- SS Aaron Miles, RF Chris Duncan and 1B Albert Pujols -- combined to reach base nine times and score five runs Monday.

--RHP Jason Isringhausen, sidelined with a sore hip, took a cortisone shot Monday and will rest until Friday, when he will try to throw.

--CF Jim Edmonds, out with post-concussion syndrome, took batting practice Monday and may be ready to return to the lineup soon.

--SS David Eckstein (strained left oblique muscle) is on the mend and is expected to travel with the team next week.

BY THE NUMBERS: 84.7 -- Career percentage of saves converted by RHP Jason Isringhausen, even though he has blown 10 of 43 this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It might make some people happy." -- RHP Jason Isringhausen, on the possibility he won't be able to pitch anymore this season.

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