Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Watson Gem Helps Atone for Blow-Up

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Watson Gem Helps Atone for Blow-Up

Article excerpt

The last time Allen Watson stood atop the Astrodome mound, he did his part in frittering away an 11-0 lead in what was the Cardinals' darkest hour of a dreary 1994 season.

"I remember Joe (Torre) saying, `Don't ever forget that game. That was a win. If you ever get 299 wins, you'll remember that one,' " Watson said.

But Watson, who hadn't lasted even five innings in his previous two starts, acted as if Steve Carlton had slipped into his uniform Friday night. The up-again, down-again Watson was at his zenith in dealing the Houston Astros a wild-card jolt and blanking them 3-0.

Watson (7-8), walked one and gave up just four hits in eight innings in outdueling Doug Drabek. Tom Henke gained an easy 34th save with a perfect ninth as the Astros were shut out for only the fourth time.

"That's the finest game I've seen him pitch in the major leagues," Cardinals manager Mike Jorgensen said. "Everything was there. Fastball, change, slider."

And maturity.

Shortstop Jose Oquendo said, "Even when he got into trouble, he was able to concentrate. Before, he would go and get mad."

Scott Cooper, who had driven in three runs since Aug. 3, made the most of a rare starting assignment. His two-out double off the center-field wall in the second scored John Mabry with the game's first run.

Ray Lankford's 24th home run, just inside the right-field foul pole, gave the Cardinals a three-run lead in the sixth. Oquendo, a career .357 hitter against Drabek (10-9), singled before Lankford's home run.

The three runs represented one more run than the Cardinals had scored in three games in their previous visit here this season.

In 15 innings against Houston this season, Watson hasn't allowed a run and given up only 10 hits. He had won just one of his previous six starts, although Watson said he had been bothered by a sinus and flu condition.

"He had a cold that bothered him for a while," Jorgensen said. "But (Cal) Ripken had a few colds, too."

The Cardinals and Watson were helped by the absence of .300 hitters Tony Eusebio (flu) and Brian Hunter (bad shoulder) from a lineup already without Derek Bell, out for the season.

"Thank God," Watson said.

Eusebio is a . …

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