NLCS Game Five Monday – Cards 5-4

In Game 5 of the NLCS, the Cardinals defeated by the Houston Astros by 5-4 mark Monday night, drawing to within three games to two and sending the series back to Busch.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros by a 5-4 score at Minute Maid Park Monday night. In the process, the Astros' lead in the best of seven series was cut to three games to two as the series returns to Busch Stadium.

In a rematch of Game One, Chris Carpenter opposed Andy Pettitte. Carpenter had the lead until the seventh, when an error, a single and a 338 foot home run turned a one-run lead into a two-run deficit.

Prior to the ninth, the offense managed six singles and a double by Yadier Molina. Mark Grudzielanek had two hits and two RBI. Still, Albert Pujols came to the plate with two out in the ninth, representing the winning run. He did not disappoint, slamming the game-winning three-run home run off closer Brad Lidge. Jason Isringhausen took the win.

Mabry tacks one on
John Mabry turned 35 years old on Monday.

Not him again!
Jim Meskimen, the actor who pummeled us over and over through dozens of Schnuck's Cardinals ads a few years back, has reappeared in Cingular Wireless commercials during the NLCS.

Central to take first crown
No American or National League Central team has ever won the World Series since the six-division format began in 1994, but that will finally change in 2005.

Monday's lineup
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Sanders, Walker, Grudzielanek, Molina, Luna and Carpenter. Same as Game One except for Luna at third base for Nunez.

On to the game…

Cards first – Good start, no finish
Eckstein was hit in the elbow with a Pettitte offering to start the game. Edmonds followed with a free pass. Pujols popped out on the first pitch, despite finally having a runner in scoring position. Sanders flied out on his first offering, too. Walker grounded out and that was that.

Astros first – Trouble on the other side, too
Craig Biggio singled leading off, as the ball went far to Grudz' right, but he dropped the ball. Biggio would likely have legged it out, anyway. Chris Burke bunted the runner over. Lance Berkman worked Carp for eight pitches before walking. Ensberg was retired on a check-swing mistake back to Carpenter. Luna made a great play on Lamb, snagging his shot and throwing accurately from foul ground while running toward the dugout to first to record the third out.

Cards second – Another two chances with a RISP
With one out, Molina doubled into the right center gap as Burke dove and missed. Taveras would have made that catch methinks. Luna fanned on a check swing and Carp hit a chopper to third.

Astros second – Breaking through
Lane singled leading off. Ausmus doubled off the box seats down the left field line. Two runners in scoring position with no out. Carp fanned Adam Everett. On a Pettitte chopper, Pujols backhanded it and threw home. Molina handled the low throw, wheeled and tagged out Lane's lead foot just before he slid across home plate. Biggio's RBI single to left scored the run. Molina took a foul tip off his right hand. Barry Weinberg came out to spray Yadi's fingers to deaden the pain. Burke fanned for the third out. Astros 1-0.

Cards third – And one!
Eckstein singled leading off and promptly stole second base. Edmonds singled to right, putting runners at the corners with no out. Pujols came up again with a runner in scoring position, but fanned on a nasty slider. On a full count, Sanders just missed a home run outside the left field foul pole before fanning. That hurt. Walker took a free pass to load the bases. Grudz' flare into right scored two, bringing out pitching coach Jim Hickey. Molina stuck out swinging to end it. Cards 2-1.

Astros third – 1-2-3
Carpenter retired the Astros in order, especially important following taking the lead.

Cards fourth –1-2-3 the other way
Ensberg got Luna on a ball that it looked like he could have legged out. Lane made a nice diving catch to retire Carpenter and Eckstein also flied out to right.

Astros fourth – Two more on
Lamb took a ball on the hip to take first base leading off. Ausmus forced Lamb out 5-4. Everett followed with a single to right. Pettitte's bunt moved the runners up. Biggio lined out to Sanders in right for the third out.

Cards fifth – Yet another RISP
Sanders singled to left with two out. He stole second base on a 2-1 count uncontested. Walker again chopped out to second.

Astros fifth – Just one
Berkman singled to right, but that was it.

Cards sixth – Two hits, no threat
Grudz shot a ball past third that hit off the small scoreboard in left and bounced back into left. He was thrown out by a considerable margin trying to stretch it into a double. Molina followed with a single that shorthopped Berkman in left. Luna popped out in one pitch and Carp's comebacker ended another chance.

Astros sixth – Smooth
Carp got ‘em in order.

Cards seventh – Two errors, Andy out
Eckstein ground to short, but Everett fired the throw high to first. After two stolen bases against him, Pettitte threw over to first multiple times before he picked off Eckstein trying to steal. 1-3-6. Edmonds fouled a ball off a ceiling beam. Everett caught it, but it was ruled a dead ball. Edmonds then bounced a ball to Biggio. While the throw beat Edmonds, Lamb's foot was not on the bag. Chad Qualls replaced Pettitte to face Pujols, who ground out 5-3. He also got Sanders to end the inning.

Astros seventh – Is it over?
With one out, Luna got eaten up on a Biggio chopper for an error. Burke hit a little nubber in front of the plate. As it went foul, for some reason Molina grabbed it and threw it toward first from his knees. The throw was wild, allowing the Astros to get runners on second and third. But, it was correctly ruled foul by home plate umpire Larry Poncino. Burke eventually put Biggio at third on a hit-and-run single. It's about time to pull Carp. Too late, as Berkman put the first pitch he saw into the Crawford Boxes. 338 cheap feet. Ensberg cranked a ball off the scoreboard in left, but Sanders threw him out trying to take second. Astros 4-2.

Cards eighth – Going down?
The 5-6-7 hitters went down quickly.

Astros eighth – Izzy not at the right time
Jason Isringhausen retired the Astros in order.

Cards ninth – Lights flickered before going out
Brad Lidge fanned John Rodriguez and John Mabry before Eckstein singled to left. He took second uncontested. Edmonds drew a walk. Albert Pujols slammed a mammoth three-run home run to left that flew up into the train area, far above the Crawford Boxes. Cards 5-4.

Astros ninth – Izzy at the right time
The final three outs quieted the Houston crowd even more.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Wednesday: NLCS Game 6 at Busch: 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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