:: Tuesday, October 19, 2004 ::

NL Playoffs, Game 5: Houston Astros 3, St. Louis Cardinals 0
Another day in Houston, another devastating Cardinals loss. Their backs to the wall, our beloved Redbirds now travel back to St. Louis for Game 6 and, it is hoped, Game 7.

Houston pitcher Brandon Backe made the Cardinals hitters look just plain silly. The guy pitched eight innings and allowed only one hit to what was, for most of the regular season, the most potent offense in the National League. St. Louis starter Woody Williams pitched one-hit ball, too, for seven innings. It was a great pitcher's duel.

Then Astros reliever Brad Lidge came in and shut down the top of the Cardinals order (a harmless groundout by leadoff hitter Tony Womack, who owned the only Cardinals hit of the night, and strikeouts of Larry Walker and Albert Pujols). In the bottom of the ninth, Houston's Carlos Beltran led off with a base hit off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen. Isringhausen then got Jeff Bagwell out, and Beltran stole second on a 2-2 count to the dangerous Lance Berkman. (Everyone's talking about Beltran's lights-out post-season, but Berkman's is none too shabby, either.) Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa then has Izzy walk Berkman to face Jeff Kent. Now, plenty of fans will question LaRussa's move, but I can see why he chose to have Izzy face Kent. Kent is the most likely to hit into a double play, and Berkman has been white hot. But all Izzy needed was one more strike on Berkman. But LaRussa knows his baseball and is one of the game's best strategists.

Anyway, Jeff Kent took the first pitch and drove it high over the left field wall for the game-winning home run.

Mr. Spiky struck deep into the heart of the Cardinals last night.

Speaking of heart, it certainly looked last night as though the Cards weren't playing with any. Woody Williams -- and Scott Rolen, on defense -- were the exceptions. But where in the heck was that Cardinals offense? Watching Brad Lidge make quick work of Walker and Pujols in the ninth inning -- striking them out with nasty stuff he isn't supposed to be throwing after back-to-back two-inning outings -- just made me queasy. One thing to remember, though: After the Dodgers' Jose Lima shut out the Cards in the division series, the Redbirds came back strong to win Game 4. Let's hope those same Redbirds show up on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

:: Andrew 07:25 + ::

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