NL CENTRAL Renteria homer propels Cards

Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong was shelled in the first inning of an 11-4 loss.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Fouling off pitch after pitch until he got a fastball to his liking, Edgar Renteria set the tone for another victory for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Renteria capped a 13-pitch at-bat in the first inning with a three-run homer off Ryan Vogelsong and matched his career high with five RBIs, leading the way in an 11-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Renteria was 9-for-18 in the series and had nine RBIs in an eight-game homestand.
"That might have been the best at-bat I've seen all year," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "My hat's off to Edgar. It was just an outstanding at-bat."
Larry Walker hit a grand slam, the seventh of his career and second in five days, in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach for the Cardinals, who have the majors' best record at 82-42 after winning 15 of their last 19 games.
Reversal of fortune
St. Louis won four of five against the Pirates, who had won their four previous series and had a four-game winning streak against the Cardinals after taking the series opener.
After a 6-2 homestand, the Cardinals are 40 games above .500 for the first time since the last game of their pennant-winning season in 1985, when they finished 101-61. St. Louis has won eight straight series and 14 of the last 15.
Matt Morris (13-8) allowed two runs and 10 hits for the win after a rough start. Steve Kline got five outs for his third save in four chances.
Jason Bay homered and went 4-for-4 with two RBIs for the Pirates. Bay and Rob Mackowiak each drove in a run in the first for Pittsburgh, which began the game with four hits in five at-bats.
Long at-bat
Renteria fouled off seven pitches after an 0-2 count before hitting his ninth homer on a full count into the Cardinals' bullpen in right field.
The homer scored Walker, who had drawn a walk on 10 pitches, and came right after Jim Edmonds was walked intentionally with Walker on second and two outs.
The intentional walk served as motivation for Renteria.
"So I had to do something," he said. "Thank God I did it. I fouled off all of those pitches and I finally got the pitch I was looking for."
Vogelsong doesn't know how that at-bat got away from him.
"I had him right where I wanted him," Vogelsong said. "He worked me into a count where if I don't throw him a strike, I load the bases."
Renteria's two-run bases-loaded single off Mark Corey in the seventh put the Cardinals ahead 7-2. The single came after Corey walked Edmonds with the bases loaded.
Reliever Jason Simontacchi gave up three straight hits in the eighth: Bay's 18th homer, a double by Tike Redman and an RBI single by Ty Wigginton to cut the gap to 7-4.
Walker then blew open the game with his slam off Brian Meadows in the eighth. He's batting .304 with four homers, 15 RBIs and 13 walks in 14 games with the Cardinals.

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