NLCS Game Two - Thursday – Astros 4-1

In Game 2 of the NLCS, the Cardinals were defeated by the Houston Astros by a 4-1 mark Thursday evening.

The St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Houston Astros by a 4-1 score at Busch Stadium Thursday evening. In the process, the best of seven series is tied at one game each. In a big turnaround, Houston goes home with a chance to end the series without a return to St. Louis for Game Six.

Mark Mulder took on Roy Oswalt. Oswalt outpitched Mulder slightly, leaving after seven having given up just one run on five hits. Mulder allowed two through seven, but only one run was earned. Julian Tavarez gave up two more runs in the eighth as the game seemed to slip away.

Jim Edmonds outs sent Albert Pujols up three times leading off an inning. Pujols hit a solo home run one time and Yadier Molina had a pair of ground rule doubles. However, there was a potentially crippling injury during the eighth as Reggie Sanders was hurt trying to catch a fly ball.

Sanders special
Reggie Sanders has driven in at least two runs in each of his last four games, which is a new postseason record. The old record was three consecutive multiple-RBI games, achieved 17 different times by 17 different players.

Reggie on a run
Sanders has knocked in at least one run in 10 straight games dating back to the regular season (a total of 22 RBI).

Long way from another record
Sanders has collected 12 RBI in his first four games of this year's postseason. But, last year David Ortiz had a postseason-high 19 RBI in 14 games for the World Champion Boston Red Sox, including four in four games against the Cardinals.

In case you missed it…
The winner of Game One of the NLCS has advanced to the World Series in each of the last 12 years. The 1991 Atlanta Braves were the last team to lose Game One of the NLCS but still advance to the World Series, but it also happened nine times before that.

Why win Game Two?
In NLCS history, 17 clubs have jumped out to a 2-0 lead and only two of those teams have lost the series (the 1984 Cubs and 1985 Dodgers). Since the seven game format began in 1985, seven of the eight NL clubs that took a 2-0 lead advanced to the World Series. The only NL team since then to blow a 2-0 lead was the 1985 Los Angeles Dodgers, who led 2-0 over the Cardinals, but then St. Louis won the next four to take the series.

Extra squeeze
Chris Carpenter's suicide squeeze was the second by the Cards this postseason (also David Eckstein in Game One of the Division Series vs. San Diego). St. Louis has gone 15-for-18 (including postseason) in suicide squeeze attempts this year.

Grudz' ties himself
Mark Grudzielanek's eight assists in Game One tied a NLCS record for assists by a second baseman in a nine inning game. Grudzielanek previously had eight assists when he was with the Chicago Cubs on October 8, 2003. Philadelphia's Manny Trillo also recorded eight assists on October 7, 1980.

Ozzie and Nikko in the lights
Papa Smith threw out the first pitch and his son sang "God Bless America" at Busch on Thursday.

If it wasn't for that darned World Series…
Coming into Thursday, the Cardinals had won nine straight games at Busch Stadium in the LCS and LDS rounds of the playoffs. Their last home loss in the first two rounds of the playoffs occurred in Game Two of the 2002 LCS when San Francisco's Jason Schmidt won against Woody Williams.

Mulder rolling into Game Two
Mark Mulder, has a 2.05 ERA in five career postseason starts. In his last ten starts at Busch Stadium since June 28 (including postseason), Mulder has gone 5-1 with a 1.67 ERA. The Cards posted a 9-1 record in those ten games.

NLCS regulars
This is the eighth National League Championship Series appearance for the Cardinals. They are now tied with Cincinnati for third-most appearances in the NLCS. Only Atlanta (11) and Pittsburgh (nine) have appeared in more.

Thursday's lineup
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Walker, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Nunez, Molina, and Mulder.

On to the game…

Astros first – Early trouble averted
Biggio singled to left leading off. Taveras bunted to third, but Grudz didn't get over to the bag and Pujols didn't return to the base, so Nunez didn't make the throw. Berkman whiffed for the first out. It just had to be that Morgan Ensberg bounced to Mulder, who started the ninth double play of the postseason for the Cardinals.

Cards first – Close, but…
Jason Lane made a nice shoestring catch in short right off the bat of Eckstein. Edmonds singled between short and third for a single. With Edmonds running on a full count, Pujols ground into an out at first. Larry Walker drew a full-count walk. Reggie Sanders was unable to collect the RBI as he ground out third to second. Oswalt has thrown 23 pitches already.

Astros second – No first lead this time
Jason Lane took a called third strike starting the inning. Chris Burke shot a ball into the right center gap. Grudz' relay of Edmonds' throw to third was in time, but Burke just eluded Nunez' glove for the triple. On a comebacker, Mulder looked Burke back to third before he threw out Adam Everett. Brad Ausmus took an intentional walk to get to Oswalt. In hindsight, it was a bad decision. The run scored as Molina didn't cleanly catch an inside pitch. He was reacting as Ausmus had taken off to steal second base before the ball squirted away for a passed ball. Mulder must have been rattled as he walked Oswalt in four pitches. That brought out Duncan before Biggio fanned. Astros 1-0.

Cards second – Bad time
Leading off, Grudz shattered his bat as the ball struck off his foot. However, the home plate ump missed the call, calling the ball in play, as Grudz was thrown out at first. Grudz argued vehemently and La Russa joined the argument. Nunez quickly fanned and Molina flied out on his first pitch.

Astros third – Gunned down
Taveras shot a lead off single off Eckstein. Berkman just missed a home run to right center as Edmonds hauled it in on the track. Molina threw out the speed merchant Taveras trying to steal second and Ensberg ended the inning one pitch later as Walker stretched to catch his sinking liner.

Cards third – Turning tables
Mulder, Eckstein and Edmonds went down quickly and easily. Oswalt's pitch count is only at 45 now, while Mulder's difficulties have him at 58 already.

Astros fourth – 1-2-3
About time!

Cards fourth – RISP wasted
With two out, Sanders singled and reached second on a throwing error by Ensberg, but Grudz hit a chopper tight at the second baseman to end it.

Astros fifth – Tables turned again
Ausmus slammed a leadoff double into the left center gap. Oswalt bunted him over. Biggio's nubber scored the run. Astros 2-0.

Cards fifth – Another opportunity
Nunez tried to bunt for a hit, but didn't strike the ball hard enough. He was easily thrown out by Ausmus, Molina followed with a ground rule double to center. Mulder had no chance, fanning on three pitches. Oswalt brushed Eckstein back on a high and tight 1-2 pitch, but David hung in there to draw a walk. After taking what could have been strike three, Edmonds took another, but this time, it was called. Edmonds ended an inning for the second time on the evening.

Astros sixth – Edmonds' leather
Berkman singled to left to start the inning right for Houston. Edmonds made another patented diving catch off Ensberg on the warning track in right center. Pujols and Berkman were shown carrying on a chat at first base like old buddies. There's a game going on there. Lane fanned for the second out and Burke grounded to Pujols to end it.

Cards sixth – That's more like it
Pujols the Great launched an Oswalt offering over the Houston bullpen. He admired it for awhile before assuming his home run trot. Wonder what Bob Gibson would say about that? Pujols plopped down next to Mulder on the bench, offering his support without saying a word. Grudz got buzzed like Eckstein before. He launched a weak comebacker on the next pitch to end the frame. Astros 2-1.

Astros seventh – Two-out tension
Oswalt and Biggio singled on back to back pitches with two out. That brought out Duncan again, as the entire infield joined him. Flores and Thompson quickly began to warm up. Tavares ground out to Grudz.

Cards seventh – Bridge to Lidge holds
This is the last chance to get to Oswalt and not have to face closer Brad Lidge. Molina doubled again – another ground rule double that went over the shallow-playing Burke's head in left with one out. Edmonds, he ain't. John Rodriguez pinch hit for Mulder as Chad Qualls and Mike Gallo began to warm up in the Houston pen. J-Rod was very patient, drawing a walk and a visit to Oswalt by his pitching coach. Eckstein flied out to center, leaving the inning to Edmonds, who ground out on the first pitch. He has been the last out for three consecutive at-bats.

Astros eighth – Sanders goes down
Berkman greeted Julian Tavarez with double down the right field line. Tavarez got inside on Ensberg, inducing a grounder without the runner moving up. Same for Jason Lane. Tavarez uncorked a very wild pitch that bounced far to the left of Molina and rolled to the backstop. Molina collected the ball and fired it to third too late. Burke collected the key RBI on a single to left. Next, Sanders made a leaping attempt on a shot to the track. The ball bounced off his glove as he fell hard to the dirt, striking his head on the ground. Edmonds sprinted over to get the ball and hold Everett to an RBI triple. La Russa and Barry Weinberg raced out to attend to Sanders as play was halted. Weinberg took Sanders off the field through the wagon gate. So Taguchi came in to play left as La Russa carried Sanders' cap and glove back into the dugout. Astros 4-1.

Cards eighth – 1-2-3 fast
Lidge fanned two of the three hitters in short order.

Astros ninth – Marquis sighting
Jason Marquis pitched. Wish he had come in an inning earlier, as he retired the Astros in order. I also wish he hadn't whined about being put in the bullpen in the first place.

Cards ninth – Lights out Lidge
Grudz flied out on a 3-1 pitch. Ugh! Nunez followed with a single and took second uncontested. Molina fanned swinging and Mabry grounded out to end the game.

Upcoming action (times CDT) – Projected starters
Friday: Workouts at Minute Maid: Astros @ 3pm, Cards @ 4pm
Saturday: NLCS Game 3 at Minute Maid: Matt Morris vs. Roger Clemens
Sunday: NLCS Game 4 at Minute Maid: Jeff Suppan vs. Brandon Backe
Monday: NLCS Game 5 at Minute Maid (if necessary): Chris Carpenter vs. Andy Pettitte
Wednesday: NLCS Game 6 at Busch (if necessary): Mulder vs. Oswalt
Thursday: NLCS Game 7 at Busch (if necessary): Morris vs. Clemens
For game times and broadcast schedules: link

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


The Cardinal Nation Top Stories