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Carpenter outduels Willis, limits Marlins to three hits

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- To Chris Carpenter, facing Dontrelle Willis was
not a Cy Young preview. It was just another stingy outing.

Carpenter is coming out on top against all of the National
League's aces. He threw a three-hitter Tuesday night to become the
major leagues' first 16-game winner in a 3-1 victory over Willis
and the Florida Marlins.

"He's one of the best pitchers we've seen all year," Marlins
manager Jack McKeon said. "One of the best-pitched games we've
seen all year. Give the guy credit."

John Gall drove in the first two runs of his career and Jim
Edmonds had an RBI single for the Cardinals, who have won five of
eight and have the NL's best record at 67-39. St. Louis, which has
beaten up on the Central Division with a 32-13 record, improved to
8-9 against the tougher competition in the East.

Carpenter (16-4) beat Roger Clemens in his first start after
throwing a scoreless inning in the All-Star game, and bested Roy
Oswalt and Andy Pettitte earlier this season. He won his eighth
straight decision in nine starts and Willis, who hit the first two
batters he faced to set the tone for a wild, 103-pitch, five-inning
outing, couldn't keep up.

Carpenter convinced himself it wasn't a special matchup, and he
just had to do his job against the Marlins hitters.

"Nothing I can do about what Dontrelle does," Carpenter said.
"Dontrelle goes out and competes just like I do. My job is to get
the one through nine guys out on their side."

Carpenter allowed only a leadoff double in the first to Juan
Pierre, a third-inning single to Juan Castillo and an infield
single to Jeff Conine in the ninth, striking out six and walking
one. In his last nine starts, Carpenter is 8-0 with an 0.83 ERA
with 68 strikeouts and 11 walks in 75 2/3 innings. His overall ERA
dropped to 2.26.

He needed only 109 pitches, 81 strikes, to throw his fifth
complete game of the season and the 18th of his career. For
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, it was a no-brainer sending
Carpenter out for the ninth against the top of the Marlins lineup
instead of Jason Isringhausen.

"We have one of the game's best closers but he was fresh and we
didn't feel like we were pushing him at all," La Russa said. "I
don't care how great Izzy is, if I'm on the other side they may
think they've got a better chance when the other guy comes out,
because Carpenter's just dealing."

Carpenter gave up a run in the first when Pierre lined the
second pitch of the game to the right field corner and scored on
Conine's one-out sacrifice fly. He settled down in the second,
needing only seven pitches to retire the 6-7-8 batters in order,
and retired 14 straight between the third and eighth.

Willis (14-7) allowed three runs -- one earned -- and three hits
with four strikeouts and three walks. He threw seven shutout
innings in his previous start but has lost four of his last five
starts, giving up 24 earned runs in 25 innings. He has lost his
last three road starts.

"I felt like I was in the game the whole time," Willis said.
"I battled through it. I kept us in the game and there were some
unfortunate plays and that's all they needed."

For his career, Willis is 29-10 before the All-Star break and
9-14 after.

Willis worked out of self-inflicted trouble in the first, when
he hit David Eckstein and So Taguchi and then walked Mark
Grudzielanek with two outs to load the bases. He escaped on Gall's
infield popup.

The Cardinals loaded the bases in the eighth against Ron Villone
but got nothing when Carpenter was called out for interference when
he missed on a squeeze attempt. The ball glanced off catcher Paul
Lo Duca's glove and Lo Duca couldn't get around Carpenter for a tag
play at the plate.

Under baseball rule 7.08g, the runner should have been out.

Gall gave the Cardinals the lead in the third on a two-run,
two-out double, a sinking liner that right fielder Juan Encarnacion
dived for but could not handle. A fielding error by third baseman
Mike Lowell on Albert Pujols' grounder led to two unearned runs.

"It seemed like that ball was up there for a while," Gall
said. "Luckily, he didn't get there."

Edmonds, 9-for-23 during a six-game hitting streak with three
homers, made it 3-1 with an RBI single in the fifth.

Game notes
A Beatles tribute band, Liverpool Legends, played a
one-hour concert before the game on the 39th anniversary of the
rock group's appearance in St. Louis. The band played from a setup
at second base. ... Florida 1B Carlos Delgado missed his sixth
straight game with a sore left elbow. ... John Rodriguez, who has
three homers, eight RBI and a .356 average in 14 games since being
called up the Cardinals, was selected the organization's minor
league player of the month. At Triple-A Memphis he hit .375 with
eight homers and 24 RBI in 14 July games. ... Both benches were
warned after Villone hit Rodriguez with a pitch in the eighth.