:: Tuesday, October 18, 2005 ::

Cards live to play another day
The Houston Astros were just one strike away from their first trip ever to the World Series. Just one strike away. Astros closer Brad Lidge, an invincible force against the St. Louis Cardinals in last year's playoffs, had struck out the first two he'd faced in the ninth to preserve the Astros' 4-2 lead, and he had two strikes on David Eckstein. The Fox Sports broadcasters had already anointed the Astros as the NL champs. But Eckstein, one of the best two-strike hitters in baseball, crashed the party by punching a grounder past the third baseman and reached first, keeping the Cardinals' hopes alive. Next came Jim Edmonds, who stayed patient at the plate and drew a walk. Then, Albert Pujols, 0-for-4 in the game thus far, crushed one -- a three-run homer that gave the Cards a 5-4 lead. Izzy retired the Astros in order in the ninth, preserving the Cardinals win.

Houston now leads the series, three games to two. Next stop: Back to St. Louis and Busch Stadium for at least one more game.

Pujols was the hero in this game, but Eckstein deserves a lot of credit for getting that key hit to keep the Cardinals alive. Another unsung hero in that game is catcher Yadier Molina, who made an incredible tag at the plate to prevent a Houston run.

Do the Cardinals have the momentum now? It certainly felt that way in the bottom of the ninth, as the Fox cameras swept over the Astros fans, suddenly silent and nervous. Even old Nolan Ryan had a look on his face that said, "It's over." But don't count the 'stros out just yet. They're going with their best pitcher, Roy Oswalt, on Wednesday. He shut down the Cards in game 2, and could do it again. During the year, however, the Cardinals hit him pretty well. Let's hope the Cardinals bats come to life in Busch stadium for Game 6, or there may not be a Game 7.

Go Cards!

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:: Andrew 07:10 + ::

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