ST. LOUIS — Jim Edmonds’ sacrifice fly snapped an eighth-inning tie and Matt Morris bounced back from one of his worst starts of the season, bringing the St. Louis Cardinals one step closer to the NL Central championship with a 4-2 victory against the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
Edmonds also hit his 42nd home run, matching his career best set in 2000. The Cardinals have won three of eight, but reduced their magic number for clinching the division to four.
Jeff Kent hit a two-run home run and Lance Berkman had two hits, giving him six in the past two games. Houston has lost only four of its past 19 games, but fell two games behind the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card race.
Albert Pujols started the eighth-inning rally with a one-out single off Russ Springer (0-1). Edgar Renteria followed with a single to snap an 0-for-24 slump, and Pujols went to third when center fielder Carlos Beltran bobbled the ball for an error.
Edmonds followed with a line drive to center for his 108th RBI. Renteria came around one batter later on a wild pitch.
Kiko Calero (2-1) retired the top of the order in the eighth, striking out Craig Biggio, retiring Beltran on a tapper to the mound and then striking out Jeff Bagwell. Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his 42nd save in 48 chances.
Berkman, who’s 6-for-8 the past two games, reached on an infield hit to start the second and scored on Kent’s 22nd home run to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. Edmonds responded with his 11th home run in 17 games, off Carlos Hernandez in the home half.
The Cardinals tied it at 2 on Mike Matheny’s RBI double in the fourth.
Morris was smacked around in his previous start, allowing two home runs and seven runs in two innings in a loss at San Diego, but followed with a solid performance, allowing two runs on four hits in seven innings.
Hernandez made his seventh start of the season and lasted six innings, giving up two runs on four hits.
ROLEN RETURN DELAYED: After visiting the team physician, Scott Rolen’s day-to-day status with a calf strain became a longer term injury.
The third baseman missed his fourth straight start and is expected to be sidelined at least another week after an examination by Dr. George Paletta on Tuesday night.
“If you push it, you’re liable to really blow it out,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We’re going to be careful with him. So he’s just not available.”
Rolen, who’s batting .320 with 32 home runs, was hurt Friday running out a double. He said his leg had been numb after he fouled a pitch off his left shin earlier in the at-bat.
Hector Luna was in the lineup at third base on Wednesday and John Mabry played third on Tuesday.
Edgar Renteria batted cleanup, Rolen’s spot in the lineup, on Wednesday, for the first time all season.