La Russa's Cardinals Winners 8-1 over Astros

As the Cardinals keep losing front-line talent, they are playing some of their best baseball of the season, as they beat the Astros Friday night 8-1 for the 1000th win of manager Tony La Russa's career in St. Louis.

With left fielder Chris Duncan already back in St. Louis nursing a left knee which has an infection, the Cardinals also finished Friday night's game in Houston without shortstop David Eckstein, who took a pitch from Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt in the left elbow area. Eckstein was playing his first game after missing five with back spasms.

Earlier in the game, third baseman Scott Rolen, who missed a couple of games with a concussion earlier in the week, came out with a hamstring tweak. Rolen had been 12-for-23 in a seven-game hitting streak.

But, after right-hander Adam Wainwright, who dominates Houston with his big-breaking curveball, held the Astros to one run in seven innings, the Cardinals exploded for seven runs in the ninth against four Houston pitchers.

The fulcrum to the inning was the back-to-back home run punch of right fielder Juan Encarnacion and catcher Gary Bennett, each of whom hit his first homer of the season.

With the Cardinals batting around for the second time in three games, Bennett, replacing injured Yadier Molina (fractured wrist) had time to double in two more runs in the ninth.

"There's going to be good weeks and I'm going to mix in bad weeks," said Bennett, a career backup.

CARDINALS 8, HOUSTON 1: The Cardinals beat Houston for the fifth time in seven meetings this season as Adam Wainwright, Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer held the Astros to just five hits. Reserve catcher Gary Bennett knocked in three runs in the ninth inning with a homer off the foul pole and a double. Even pitcher Kip Wells, pinch-hitting, knocked in a run in the ninth with a single


--RHP Adam Wainwright, who has made three starts against Houston this season, has held the Astros to four runs in 20 innings. He was beaten by LF Carlos Lee, who capped a 14-pitch at-bat with a game-tying double in the sixth, but Wainwright then got the final five outs of his outing without incident.

"He had to focus to get the next hitter, and he did," said C Gary Bennett of Wainwright.

--INF-OF Scott Spiezio has played first base, left field and third base in the last two nights. His two-run double was one of the highlights of a seven-run ninth inning.

--Besides RHP Kip Wells' run-scoring pinch single in his hometown, Wainwright also had a single.

--LF Chris Duncan, resting in St. Louis with a knee infection, may be ready to play sometime in the Cincinnati series in St. Louis beginning on Tuesday.

--CF Jim Edmonds, the Cardinals' cleanup hitter, was credited with a rare sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning. After 1B Albert Pujols opened the inning with a double, Edmonds bunted to get Pujols to third. The Astros got the out on Edmonds at first and then 1B Lance Berkman overthrew third and Pujols scored the game's first run.

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