In a repeat of Game Two, Mark Mulder opposed Roy Oswalt on the hill. Mulder didn't have it, allowing three runs in 4-2/3 innings. Jason Marquis allowed another in the sixth. On the other hand, through six innings, Oswalt hit as many batters as hits allowed, two. He left after allowing just one walk and three hits in total through seven innings. Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler finished off the Cardinals.
Three versions of the same tired story
First, it was Jeannie Zelasko on the pregame show, then Psycho Lyons, and finally, intrepid (near) dugout reporter Kenny Albert all told different versions of the story about the Astros joking about Pujols' home run flying past their airplane. Enough, already!
Kenny Albert, Kenny Albert
During the fourth, Kenny Albert explained that Mulder had pitched two previous elimination games and cited the results. That is all well and good, but the same point had already been made from the booth. Isn't there a director to this telecast? And, what does Albert add to the show by saying that from the field?
Eckstein, Edmonds, Pujols, Walker, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Molina, Nunez and Mulder.
On to the game…
Astros first – Good start
Biggio tested Nunez on the first pitch, bunting his way. Nunez passed, charging, fielding and throwing Biggio out at first. Two more grounders ended the frame quickly.
Cards first – A baserunner
Edmonds took a one-out walk. Albert fanned on a wicked up and in pitch, getting tied up in knots. Walker was out 5-3.
Cards second – Quiet
Three more up and down.
Astros third – Deflated
Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett led off with singles. Oswalt sacrificed them over and a Mulder wild pitch scored one run and put Everett on third. Biggio brought the second run in with a single. Astros 2-0.
Cards third – Whatever it takes
Eckstein was hit by a pitch with two out, but Edmonds popped out.
Astros fourth – More pain
Lane hit a home run deep to left with one out. That got Marquis up in the pen. Good move. Ausmus singled to right with two out. Astros 3-0.
Cards fourth – Getting tense
The Fox crew noted that Pujols was again leading off an inning and that no Cardinal has been able to get the ball out of the infield. Pujols ground out to short. Walker again hit a ball to third. Sanders fanned swinging.
Astros fifth – Brad gets a big out
Mulder opened up going 3-0 on Oswalt before he flied out to deep right on a full count. This time, Brad Thompson heated up in the bullpen. Taveras singled past a diving Eckstein with two out. Albert was seen on camera chatting with the enemy at first. Taveras didn't stay long, as Mulder's throw to the plate was high and outside, bouncing off Molina's glove. Berkman walked on four pitches. That was all for Mulder. Enter Thompson, who got Ensberg on a pop-up to end the threat.
Cards fifth – Umps again influence the outcome
Leading off, Grudz took a ball on the left hand. Molina fisted a ball into short right for a single. Grudz had to stop at second. Bob Brenly in the booth questioned why Nunez wasn't asked to sacrifice. Nunez hit the ball to Oswalt, who fell to the ground, and threw to the first base side of second. Adam Everett made a diving catch, making a sweep tag toward Molina. Unfortunately, for the Cardinals, Everett missed the dodging runner, but Molina was called out. He protested, followed by La Russa, but umpire Greg Gibson stuck to his call of course. Replays clearly showed the tag was missed. First and third for John Rodriguez, who worked a full count and then fouled off a few more before hitting a sacrifice fly to center. Eckstein took a called strike three to end the inning. Astros 3-1.
Astros sixth – Taking the run back
Burke singled off Jason Marquis with one out. Ausmus hit a ball to short right to put runners on the corners. Everett dropped down a squeeze on a 3-1 pitch. It not only scored the run but Everett almost legged out a single. Ausmus took second on the play. Marquis went 3-1 on Oswalt before striking him out. Astros 4-1.
Cards sixth – RISP wasted
Edmonds and Pujols were retired without incident before Walker slapped a one-hop double off the right field fence. Chad Qualls began to warm up. Sanders took strike three right down central to end the inning.
Astros seventh – Pitcher-go-round
Biggio singled past a diving Nunez leading off. Randy Flores and Julian Tavarez are warming up. Tavares sacrificed Biggio up to second. Flores came in to turn Berkman around to the right side. He fouled out to Walker in right. Tavarez allowed an RBI single to Ensberg. Edmonds misplayed the ball. As the ball skipped off his glove for an error, Ensberg took second. Tavarez fired a wild pitch far wide of the plate to allow Ensberg to take third. Lane ground out 6-3 for the third out. Astros 5-1.
Cards seventh – Third hit
Nunez singled up the middle with two out. So Taguchi pinch hit and bounced out 3-1.
Astros eighth – 1-2-3
Tavarez retired Burke, Ausmus and Everett in order.
Cards eighth – 1-2-3 down 1-2-3
Chad Qualls took over and got Eckstein, Edmonds and Pujols. Is the magic over?
Astros ninth – Izzy gets some work
Against Jason Isringhausen, Tavares singled, but he was stranded.
Cards ninth – It's over
Dan Wheeler pitched the final three outs in Busch Stadium history. Walker and John Mabry fanned before Grudzielanek singled to left. Molina made the final out with a first-pitch fly ball to right.
Upcoming action (times CDT)
Cardinals season over.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.