Sanders goes 4-for-4 with five RBI

HOUSTON (AP) -- Facing the St. Louis Cardinals' powerful lineup
is a daunting task for any pitcher. Especially a rookie such as
Wandy Rodriguez.

Reggie Sanders hit a grand slam and pitcher Jason Marquis added
a two-run homer during an eight-run third inning against Rodriguez,
and the Cardinals held off the Houston Astros 11-9 Saturday.

"I thought he could get us out of the inning because we were
going against the end of the lineup," Astros manager Phil Garner
said. "But then Marquis gets that home run ... that put a final
fork in him."

Sanders went 4-for-4 with five RBI, Marquis was 3-for-3 with
two hits in the third and Albert Pujols homered in the eighth to
help preserve the victory for the Cardinals, who have won 11 of 15.

Jason Isringhausen got three outs for his 17th save in 18
chances, rebounding quickly after his first blown save against
Colorado on Thursday.

The Cardinals have won five straight and six of seven against
the last-place Astros, a totally different club than the one they
beat in seven games in the NL championship series last fall.

Now missing the big bats of All-Stars Carlos Beltran and Jeff
Kent, Houston ranks last in the majors in hitting and scoring -- and
last in the NL Central standings.

But the Astros responded with one of their best offensive
performances of late, tying their third-highest scoring output of
the season.

And it still wasn't enough against the division-leading

"We thought we had a blowout and then they came pounding
back," said Sanders, who had a career-high three doubles and tied
a career best for hits. "They always give us a fight."

Marquis (7-3) gave up six runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings for
his second straight win. He made up for a shaky performance on the
mound with a career high-tying three hits and did just enough to
outpitch Rodriguez.

"It was definitely nice to have that big lead," said Marquis,
who is hitting .375. "But I think with a big lead like that, it
affects you subconsciously. I probably settled in too much."

Coming off his first career win in his previous start last
Saturday, Rodriguez (1-2) was roughed up early during a dreadful
home debut.

Sanders' run-scoring double in the first was only a preview of
the outburst to come in the third.

The Cardinals sent 11 batters to the plate, starting with
consecutive singles by Marquis and David Eckstein. With runners at
second and third and one out, Pujols was intentionally walked to
load the bases. Sanders followed with a long shot to left for his
second career slam, giving St. Louis a 5-1 lead.

Rodriguez was clearly shaken after that, cursing loudly, and
angrily shaking his head after watching the ball sail out of the

"We didn't make very many good pitches and they made us pay,"
Garner said. "It seemed like we couldn't get out of that inning."

Mark Grudzielanek followed with a single, Larry Walker added a
run-scoring triple, Scott Seabol had an RBI single and Marquis
chased Rodriguez with a two-run shot that put the Cardinals up 9-1.

Brandon Backe ended the inning by getting Eckstein on a popup.

Rodriguez allowed nine runs and nine hits in 2 2-3 innings,
striking out four and walking two. He has an ERA of 10.67 in three
starts since he was called up from Triple-A Round Rock on May 23.

The 26-year-old lefty was distraught after the game, sitting
with his head in his hands and remaining silent for several minutes
as reporters gathered around him.

"I had a lot of bad luck," Rodriguez finally said, his voice
barely above a whisper.

The Astros simply couldn't overcome his poor start.

Lance Berkman and Adam Everett had run-scoring singles, and
Jason Lane grounded into a double play to score Craig Biggio in the
fourth, cutting the Cardinals' lead to 9-4. Chris Burke added an
RBI double in the fifth.

Abraham Nunez, pinch-hitting for Seabol, singled in Sanders to
give St. Louis a 10-5 lead in the sixth.

But the Astros got an RBI single from rookie catcher Humberto
Quintero in the bottom half, and Berkman added a two-run homer in
the seventh to close the gap to 10-8.

Pujols connected in the eighth off Chad Harville to give
Isringhausen a little more cushion.

"There were several times when the game could have gotten away
from us," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "But our pitching
staff was able to make some key pitches to stop them."

Houston's Morgan Ensberg homered in the second for his 11th of
the year, second among NL third basemen.

Game notes
Sanders is hitting .347 with five homers and 10 RBI
against left-handers. ... Marquis became the first St. Louis
pitcher to have two hits in an inning since Andy Benes did it
against the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 6, 2002. ... By allowing eight
runs in the third, Houston gave up its most runs in an inning since
Texas also scored eight in a 14-3 win on May 21. ... St. Louis hit
its second grand slam of the season, and Houston allowed its first.