NLCS Game Three - Saturday – Astros 4-3

In Game 3 of the NLCS, the Cardinals were upended by the Houston Astros by a 4-3 mark Saturday afternoon.

The St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Houston Astros by a 4-3 score at Minute Maid Park Saturday afternoon. In the process, they took the lead in the best of seven series at two games to one.

Matt Morris opposed Roger Clemens. The game was a shutout until the fourth inning, when Morris allowed a leadoff walk and a home run. The Cards pulled even in the fifth, but it got away from Morris and his mates again in the sixth, as the Astros scored two more.

The offense managed just six hits until the ninth, all singles. Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina each had two. Jim Edmonds singled, walked and stole a base. Abraham Nunez also had a base hit before leaving the game due to an injured knee. John Mabry added an RBI double with two out in the ninth.

Playing the game
Despite the game-time temperature being in the mid-70's and it being a beautiful day, the roof to Minute Maid Park remained closed. We all know why.

Towels over thunder
I do have to give the Houstonians credit for waving towels instead of those idiotic thunder sticks. I especially like the fact that they look like thousands of little white flags.

Pre-game Express
Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan threw out Saturday's ceremonial first pitch.

Morris' record
Saturday's start by Matt Morris is his fifth career start in the NLCS. That is the most by a Cards pitcher in NLCS history. Previously, he was tied with John Tudor and Andy Benes, at four starts each. In comparison, Morris' competition, Roger Clemens, is making his 14th career LCS start.

Clutch slipping
Though they are 1-1 in LCS games, the Astros come into Saturday hitting just 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position this series. Unfortunately, Chris Burke's RBI single in the eighth inning of Game 2 was the one. As it turns out, the Cards are only 3-for-13.

Saturday's lineup
Eckstein, Taguchi, Pujols, Edmonds, Walker, Grudzielanek, Molina, Nunez and Morris. Sanders is still having neck pain and may or may not play Sunday. Walker was able to go, but is obviously is not 100% with his own neck ailment.

On to the game…

Cards first – No hustle
Pujols singled up the middle with two down. Biggio muffed Edmonds' grounder, but Edmonds didn't run hard. Otherwise, he would have been safe.

Astros first – No perfect game for Mo
With two out, Berkman went the other way for a first-pitch single. Nunez made a nice scoop and throw coming in on Morgan Ensberg's slow grounder for the third out.

Cards second – 1-2-3
Three up and down with no suspense.

Astros second – Ditto
Morris did a nice job retiring the Astros in order, including tossing a nice breaking ball to fan Brad Ausmus who fanned swinging to end it.

Cards third – Down again
Another quick frame.

Astros third – In and out of truoble
Clemens hit a flare single into right center with one out. Biggio then dropped a nubber into right for another single. Chris Burke shot a liner that knocked Morris' glove off his hand. The ball fortunately rolled to Grudz, who managed to beat Biggio to second. Runners on the corner for Berkman with two out. Molina almost picked Burke off first. Morris was being careful with Berkman, but got him on a fastball down the middle on a full count.

Cards fourth – First RISP
Pujols flied out against the wall at 400 feet for out number two. Clemens walked Edmonds after having retired nine in a row. Edmonds took second on the first pitch without a look or a throw. Walker took a free pass on four pitches. Grudz managed to hang on until a full-count grounder to second ended the threat. Clemens is working on a one-hitter.

Astros fourth – Lamb's chop
Morris started shakily, walking Ensberg to start the inning. It got worse in a hurry as Mike Lamb golfed an opposite-field home run into the left field seats. Astros 2-0.

Cards fifth – Lead halved
Molina singled to left leading off. Nunez shot a hopper off the diving Lamb at first. The Fox crew seems to think that Clemens has re-injured his hamstring. Morris took a cut at his first pitch seen before making a solid sacrifice bunt on his second. Eckstein's sac fly to right scored the Cards' first run of the day and Nunez took third on the throw home. Taguchi just missed a home run that went to the right field wall on Clemens' 80th pitch of the day. Astros 2-1.

Astros fifth – Morris hanging in there
Biggio almost undressed Morris, with a hard-hit single up the middle with one out. He was stranded.

Cards sixth – Some help for Albert found
Pujols singled up the middle leading off. How about some help for him? Edmonds complied, with a single to center. Pujols aggressively took third on Burke, who is not regularly a center fielder. Walker's sac fly to deep center allowed Albert to walk home. Molina singled up the middle as Edmonds took third. Nunez disputed an inning-ending nubber down the first base line that was called fair, making him the third out. Replays seemed to support Nunez' contention. A lot of good it did. Chad Qualls is throwing in the Houston pen. Tie 2-2.

Astros sixth – Nunez hurt, lead retaken
That tie lasted for about five minutes. Lamb continued his hammering of Morris with a double over Edmonds' head in deep center. Why didn't Morris just walk him? Flores and Thompson began to throw. Lane's single to right scored the run. Duncan came out to say hello. Ausmus singled past Pujols into right. Walker's throw was a bit offline. Nunez moved up to take the throw and his knee and Lane's came into contact. Nunez fell to the turf in pain and needed help to get off the field. Hector Luna replaced him. Morris was pulled from the game with runners on the corners and one out. The Astros tried a squeeze with Everett, but he failed. He then hit a ball to Luna, who fired a throw a mile wide and high over Molina's head as the run scored. Molina did recover to fire the ball back to Eckstein covering third in time to nab Ausmus. Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro singled to short center. La Russa came out to talk with Thompson and the entire infield as Biggio stepped in. Luna partially redeemed himself, stabbing a sharp liner down the line, diving and jumping up, firing to Pujols to end the inning. Astros 4-2.

Cards seventh – Time getting tight
Chad Qualls took care of the number nine, one and two hitters, fanning So to end it.

Astros seventh – Holding them at bay
Burke singled leading off, which ended Thompson's day. Flores walked Ensberg with one out. A liner to Grudz and toss to Pujols ended it.

Cards eighth – Looking bleak
Dan Wheeler and Mike Gallo warmed up as Qualls continued on the mound. Pujols was retired, then Edmonds fanned and Walker was robbed of a hit by Everett.

Astros eighth – Tavarez ok
Julian Tavarez took over. Everett hit a one-hopper off the wall in left for a double. So's throw got away from Grudz, but the runner could not take third. Astros hero Jeff Bagwell pinch hit. Tavarez worked him very carefully, but ultimately got him on a comebacker.

Cards ninth – Getting interesting
Brad Lidge fanned Grudz easily. Molina at least got the bat on the ball as he popped out. Pinch-hitter John Rodriguez drew a four-pitch walk and then took second as John Mabry hit for Luna. On a full count, Mabry shot a double into the left field corner, scoring J-Rod. That Luna error sure looks big now. Eckstein flied out to short center to end the game. Astros 4-3.

Upcoming action (times CDT) – Projected starters
Sunday: NLCS Game 4 at Minute Maid: Jeff Suppan vs. Brandon Backe
Monday: NLCS Game 5 at Minute Maid: 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.


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