Cardinals' latest fast start keeps them rolling

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Another fast start kept the St. Louis Cardinals

Jim Edmonds' homer highlighted a five-run first, and Jason
Simontacchi threw eight sharp innings in an 8-1 victory over the
Montreal Expos on Friday night.

Fernando Vina homered and went 3-for-3 for the Cardinals, who
extended their winning streak to a season-best five games. Mike
Matheny also homered and drove in three runs, and Edmonds had three

The Cardinals have outscored the opposition 14-1 in the first
inning during the first four games of a six-game homestand.

"Anytime you get big hits, and we got four with two outs,
that's a big momentum lifter,'' manager Tony La Russa said.
"They're an out away from going to the dugout with a run and all
of a sudden there's five on the board.''

Despite going down in order Thursday, the Cardinals are
15-for-27 with three homers and seven doubles in the first inning
of their last four games.

Edmonds, who hit the game-winning homer in the 10th inning
against the New York Mets on Thursday, connected on the first pitch
he saw from Tomo Ohka in the first.

During the winning streak, the NL's top hitting team has piled
up 40 runs on 58 hits, nine by Edgar Renteria.

He had hits in six consecutive plate appearances, dating to
Wednesday, before grounding out in the third.

The Cardinals had 13 hits, their 17th time in double figures in
27 games.

"You have to mix up your pitches and hit your spots against
them,'' Expos manager Frank Robinson said. "If you don't, you have
a chance to get buried.''

St. Louis roughed up Ohka (2-4) for five runs on six hits in the
first, chasing him after only two-thirds of an inning. It was the
second-shortest outing of Ohka's career. He got nobody out April
17, 2002, against the Cubs, giving up five runs on six hits.

Ohka also struggled in his last start, allowing five runs in
three innings in a loss to the Astros on April 27. His ERA has
risen from 1.78 to 4.66 in his last two starts.

"You saw it,'' Robinson said. "He had bad location on his
pitches. He kept putting the ball in good (hitting) locations.''

The Expos, who had won six of seven, missed a chance to match
the best 29-game start in franchise history. Montreal (18-11) began
the year 19-10 in 1979 and 1985.

"We talked before the game that this is a good team and we had
to play well to beat them,'' reliever Dan Smith said. "I'll bet
they're saying the same thing in the other locker room.''

An 11-game winner as a 28-year-old rookie last season,
Simontacchi (1-1) won for the first time in five starts this season
and lowered his ERA from 8.35 to 6.15. He allowed one run on six
hits with three walks and one strikeout and benefited from three
double plays.

"Our defense was outstanding, and obviously our offense came
through,'' Simontacchi said. "It was a beautiful thing.''

Simontacchi was the last member of the rotation to get a

"I was the last one to put a tally in the win section,''
Simontacchi said. "They've been ragging at me for a while.''

The Expos got their lone run on a double-play grounder by
pinch-hitter Ron Calloway in the fifth.

Vina led off the first with a single and scored on Albert
Pujols' double. Pujols advanced when the Expos tried for a play at
the plate and also scored when shortstop Orlando Cabrera's throw
got away from catcher Brian Schneider for an error.

Edmonds followed with his seventh homer, and Matheny added a
two-run double to chase Ohka after he faced only eight batters.

Vina led off the second with his second homer in three games,
topping last year's total of one, for a 6-0 lead. St. Louis opened
the fifth with singles by Pujols, Edmonds and Scott Rolen, and
Pujols scored on Renteria's groundout for a 7-1 lead.

Matheny hit a home run leading off the eighth.

Game notes
Right-handed hitters are batting .426 (23-for-54) against
Ohka, whose best pitch is a forkball that's tough on lefties. ...
Before Friday, the Expos had outscored their opponents 24-9 in the
first inning. ... The Cardinals lead the all-time series 260-258.
... St. Louis has made two errors in the last 11 games.