Don Baylor thought his Colorado Rockies were about to erupt. Darryl Kile was feeling the heat. The Houston Astros' playoff hopes were in danger.

False alarm.After a single and a double put two Rockies in scoring position with nobody out and the meat of the order coming up, Kile turned the heat into smoke that blew by Dante Bichette and Charlie Hayes.

"That's the inning we've been looking for for a while, runners on second and third with nobody out," Baylor said Thursday night. "Six pitches later, we're out of it."

And Kile was into it. He retired 13 in a row after the two hits, scattered eight hits over 62/3 innings and pitched the Astros to their third straight victory over their least-favorite opponent.

"I was just hoping to get out of that first inning with one run," said Kile (8-6). "For us tonight, getting out of it was a big lift."

Even with the win, the Astros have a sorry 7-17 (.292) record against the second-year franchise. They're 140-107 (.545) against the rest of the NL.

More importantly, with the anticipated strike now only a week away, the Astros moved within three games of idle Cincinnati in the NL Central division and within two of Atlanta in the NL's wild card chase.

"It's a big win for us. We only picked up a half-game, but it's a half-game," Astros manager Terry Collins said. "If we're going to win, our pitchers are going to have to do it for us."

Craig Biggio hit a two-run triple to cap a three-run second against Kevin Ritz (4-6) and Scott Servais also drove in two runs for Houston.

Kile, 0-2 with a 7.16 ERA in three prior starts against Colorado, said a reliable curveball made all the difference. The right-hander, who entered the game leading the NL with 82 walks, did not issue a free pass all night.

Cardinals 7, Expos 3

Bob Tewksbury's five-hit pitching and Todd Zeile's third career grand slam helped St. Louis send visiting Montreal to just its second loss in 16 games.

Dodgers 1, Padres 0

Mike Piazza's 24th homer provided the only run as Kevin Gross and Todd Worrell combined on a six-hitter for Los Angeles against visiting San Diego.

The Dodgers moved 21/2 games in front of idle San Francisco in the NL West.

Pirates 5, Phillies 1

Curt Schilling, the MVP of last year's NL playoffs, lost for the eighth time in nine decisions this year as Philadelphia lost to visiting Pittsburgh.

Marlins 5, Cubs 1

Mark Gardner held Chicago to five hits in 72/3 innings as Florida won its third straight at Wrigley Field.