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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cards ride seven-run second to victory

Early offensive outburst seals the deal for St. Louis in Houston
HOUSTON -- With nine pitchers already on the disabled list and Todd Wellemeyer's next start in doubt, the last thing the St. Louis Cardinals needed was another injury to a pitcher.

Adam Wainwright left Saturday night's 8-4 victory over Houston in the bottom of the sixth with a sprained middle finger on his right hand. He is listed as day-to-day.

"I felt it a little bit warming up in the bullpen," Wainwright said of the injury at the upper joint of the finger. "I didn't feel anything until the third or fourth inning."

Lance Berkman led off the inning with a double for the Astros, and Wainwright departed after throwing 73 pitches with a 2-2 count on Darin Erstad and the Cardinals in front, 7-1.

"It felt like it needed to be popped or cracked," Wainwright said of his finger. "I threw a curveball to Erstad, and I couldn't squeeze the ball after that. [Catcher Yadier Molina] called a curveball on the next pitch, and I couldn't throw it. I threw a fastball about four feet outside." Wainwright then called on trainer Barry Weinberg to come to the mound.

"I knew if [Wainwright] called the trainer out, something was wrong because he's a tough guy," center fielder Skip Schumaker said. "That's not good."

Wainwright said he hoped the finger would heal with a couple of days of rest.

"It's not swollen that much," Wainwright said. "It's weird."

"It's enough to concern you," manager Tony La Russa said. "I don't want to think about it and spoil the night."

Wainwright (6-3), who beat the Astros for the third time this season, was pitching another superb game against Houston.

"I knew I had a least seven innings [in me]," Wainwright said. "That was the bad thing about it. I wanted to give our bullpen some rest."

The bullpen was just good enough.

Kyle McClellan replaced Wainwright and gave up four more singles in the sixth, including a bloop and a bleeder, and two runs, the first charged to Wainwright.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they began the inning with a six-run lead.

"Yadier came out and calmed me down," McClellan said. "'We're going to get some breaks here. It will turn around.' You're trying to zone out the score. That was an intense situation. You give up a long ball or double in the gap, and they're right back in it."

McClellan did give up a long ball, to Miguel Tejada leading off the seventh, and La Russa had to use Randy Flores, Christopher Perez and Ryan Franklin one inning each to put away the Astros.

"That's a character game for us," La Russa said of the victory.

The Cardinals hitters, after taking Friday night off, rebounded with a seven-run second inning on Saturday night. Schumaker led the way a single, double and triple, all in the first four innings.

The Cardinals hit in the cages before the game, but skipped the usual batting practice on the field.

"Sometimes you need a break," said Schumaker, who has five hits in the first two games of the series. "The Astros didn't take batting practice before [Friday] night's game, and they scored five or six runs early."

Troy Glaus started the big second inning with a homer, and Ryan Ludwick put the exclamation point on it with a three-run shot.

Adam Kennedy walked with one out, Wainwright followed with a single and then Schumaker unloaded a triple to dead center that landed on Tal's Hill about 425 feet from home plate to make it 3-0.

"That's about all I got," Schumaker joked about his power.

Brian Barton doubled in Schumaker, Albert Pujols was walked intentionally and Ludwick hit a three-homer, his 14th, to left-center to made the score 7-0, with all seven tallies coming against Houston starter Shawn Chacon (2-2).

"I don't think that affected the game one way or the other," Glaus said of the Cards skipping BP. "I'd prefer to hit outside [rather than in the cages].

"Last night, everybody got a good night's sleep. It felt like we were recharged."

The Cardinals arrived at their hotel at 3:30 a.m. after playing a day-night doubleheader on Thursday in Washington.

"Yeah, I was dragging," Glaus said of Friday's 6-1 loss to Houston. "I know the guys were dragging."

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