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Cardinals sweep series in Houston

4/23/2004

HOUSTON (AP) -- At 36, Reggie Sanders isn't called on to win many
games with his legs anymore.

The St. Louis Cardinals finally needed his long-forgotten speed
Thursday night.

Hector Luna's bunt on a squeeze play scored Sanders in the top
of the 12th inning, leading St. Louis to a 2-1 victory over the
Houston Astros. The Cardinals are 6-0 on the road this season, the
team's best start since 1941.

"I save up my speed only for important times," Sanders said,
smiling. "At this age, it's called being smart."

Sanders, who has turned into more of a slugger in the twilight
of his career, was surprisingly swift in the game's final innings.

The right fielder's only hit of the night came on a blooper to
Jeff Kent at second base, who stumbled as he fielded the ball and
tried to flip it to Jeff Bagwell at first. Sanders narrowly outran
the throw, drawing boos from the crowd of 33,076.

Sanders then stole second base, got tangled up with Kent at
second as the ball dribbled by, and advanced to third. Luna's bunt
drove in Sanders for the winning run.

"That was a nasty pitch that (Luna) had to squeeze on," St.
Louis manager Tony La Russa said.

"Luna's bunt was perfect," Sanders said. "It's nice to spark
a win in a pitcher's duel and manufacture some runs like we did
tonight."

Julian Tavarez closed it out in the bottom of the 12th to earn
the save.

The Cardinals swept the three-game series against the Astros,
getting a little revenge for Houston's three straight wins in St.
Louis last week.

A matchup of the National League's two top offenses was curbed
by dominant performances on the mound.

St. Louis starter Jason Marquis didn't give up a run until Craig
Biggio's RBI single in the seventh that tied it at 1.

Until then, Marquis had pitched 10 scoreless innings dating to
an 8-4 win over Colorado on April 17. The right-hander allowed only
one run on six hits in seven innings Thursday night.

"We really hadn't seen him before and he kind of kept us
off-balance," said Biggio, who finished 1-for-5. "They didn't
really get a lot of hits either. We knew it was going to be a close
game."

Mike Lincoln, Jason Isringhausen, Cal Eldred, Steve Kline and
Tavarez held the Astros scoreless over the next five innings.

Isringhausen (1-0) picked up his first win of the season,
pitching two hitless innings.

Houston's Roy Oswalt, coming off a complete game three-hitter
against Milwaukee last week, also had a strong start.

In seven innings, Oswalt allowed only one run on four hits, but
didn't get enough offensive help to get the victory. Dan Miceli
(0-1) picked up the loss, giving up the bunt that scored Sanders.

"This kind of game is what the big leagues are all about," La
Russa said. "These guys were playing like it was September."

The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the fourth after Scott Rolen
drove in his league-leading 26th run, scoring Ray Lankford.

The Astros had their chances to score in the sixth when Jeff
Bagwell lined a shot to center that sent Adam Everett toward third,
but Everett was narrowly thrown out on a great throw by Jim
Edmonds. Kent singled in the next at-bat.

Game notes
Biggio made a nice diving catch of Jason Marquis' pop fly
in the third inning. Biggio slid just under an oncoming Adam
Everett to come up with the grab. ... Cardinals third baseman Scott
Rolen has hit safely in 12 straight games. ... The road team has
won all six games in this year's Astros-Cardinals series. ... A
fight erupted in the stands between a couple of men in the bottom
of the 11th, with one man knocking the other to the ground and
raining blows upon his face before police officers came over to
break it up. Only one of the men was taken out of the stadium in
handcuffs.