Game Observations – Wednesday – Astros 5-4

The Houston Astros took the first of the two-game series against the Cardinals, winning 5-4 on Wednesday evening.

The Houston Astros took the first of the two-game series against the Cardinals, winning 5-4 on Wednesday evening. The Astros improved their record to 18-9, while the Cards are now 17-11.

On a night when Jason Marquis continually struggled but still battled, his teammates only collected four hits in eight innings against Roy Oswalt. While three of those were home runs, all were solo shots – by Albert Pujols, Scott Spiezio and Hector Luna. They tacked on a fourth run against closer Brad Lidge in the ninth and had the lead run on base, but couldn't seal the deal.

One year ago today
On May 3, 2005, the first-place swept the Cincinnati Reds in their midweek series as they prevailed by the score of 7-3 at the Great American Ball Park. The Cardinals' record was 18-8 as they led the division by five games. Mark Mulder pitched seven three-hit shutout innings, besting Brandon Claussen. Scott Rolen slammed a two-run home run and Mark Grudzielanek had two doubles among his three hits. Slumping Yadier Molina broke out with two hits and two RBI. So Taguchi also plated two.

The match-up
Jason Marquis faced Roy Oswalt.

The line-up
Eckstein, Rodriguez, Pujols, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Spiezio, Bennett, Luna and Marquis.
Wholesale lineup changes here as no one other than Eckstein is hitting in the same place as the day before. In: John Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Gary Bennett. Out: John Gall, So Taguchi, Yadier Molina and Aaron Miles. In other words - a significant step up offensively all around. Hitting lower: Encarnacion (4-5), Spiezio (5-6), Luna (2-8). Scott Rolen was in uniform on the bench and may play Thursday.

On to the game…

Cards first – 1-2-3
Oswalt started strong, though Pujols took him to a full count before grounding out 5-3.

Astros first – Eight men up
Leadoff man Craig Biggio walked and Willy Taveras blooped a single to right. Lance Berkman slammed a double off the bullpen screen in left center that scored two. Morgan Ensberg singled through short to put runners at the corners. Preston Wilson fanned for the first out – finally. Jason Lane clubbed a sac fly to the warning track in deepest center, where Edmonds caught the ball over his shoulder. Ensberg gambled that Edmonds wouldn't make the catch, so he had to retreat to first. On a full count, catcher Brad Ausmus just missed a double into the right field corner before walking. Dave Duncan made his first appearance of the night. Adam Everett flied out to center for the third out on Marquis' 37th pitch. Astros 3-0.

Cards second – Long ball
With two down, Scott Spiezio shot a line drive home run into the seats in right. It was his third homer of the year. Astros 3-1.

Astros second – Two more on base
Oswalt walked leading off. With one down, Taveras singled, but the dangerous Berkman and Ensberg were both retired.

Cards third – Gift runner
Eckstein eluded Berkman's tag to reach with two out as the first baseman had to leap to catch a high throw from Ensberg at third. But, that was it.

Astros third – Not easy for Jason
Brad Ausmus doubled into the right field corner with two out. Marquis retired Everett to end another inning, but had to go to a full count again. He has thrown 75 pitches so far. Marquis will be lucky to make it through the fifth. Bullpen, get ready.

Cards fourth – In order
Oswalt retired the Cards in sequence.

Astros fourth – Two out rally falls short
The speedy Taveras walked with two out. Berkman singled him to third. But, Ensberg stranded them.

Fifth inning – Quiet time
Both teams went down in order.

Cards sixth – A baserunner
Marquis collected a single up the middle on the first pitch of the inning. It was the Cards' second hit against Oswalt on the night. Eckstein traded places with Marquis on a slow roller that was almost a 3-6-3. But, Rodriguez hit into a 1-6-3 to end it, anyway.

Astros sixth – More two-out trouble chases Marquis
With two down, Biggio singled up the middle for the Astros seventh hit. Taveras' triple into the right field corner chased Biggio home. Brad Thompson came into the game to relieve Marquis. Even with a base open, Thompson went after Berkman. Bad idea as his double bounced off the bullpen screen in left to drive the second run home Astros 5-1.

Cards seventh – Another for Albert
Pujols led off with a home run deep to left as his 15th of the season was also his 15th at Minute Maid Park, the most of any visiting player. No player Astros 5-2.

Astros seventh – On the corners
Leading off, Preston Wilson singled off Thompson. He moved to third with two out, when Everett was intentionally walked to get to Oswalt. Pujols dug Eckstein's low throw out of the dirt for the final out.

Cards eighth – Ever closer
With one down, Luna golfed a breaking ball onto that silly short porch in left. John Gall pinch hit for Thompson and whiffed again. In ten at-bats this time up, Gall has five strikeouts and two singles. After Eckstein went 3-0, then to a full count, he flied out in foul territory. Astros 5-3.

Astros eighth – Cy ‘borg
OK, he's hardly Cy Young material, but Brian Falkenborg took over on the mound and retired his three men in order. Where was this guy in Cincinnati?

Cards ninth – Last chance foiled
Closer Brad Lidge took over on the mound. Rodriguez clubbed a fast ball partway up that goofy hill in center field for a leadoff double. Pujols came to the plate representing the tying run, but his fly ball to the track in center was caught. Still, Edmonds came through with an RBI single to bring the game back to one. Edmonds stole second prior to Encarnacion getting hit by a pitch. But, Spiezio fanned looking and Miles made the 27th out batting for Bennett. Astros 5-4.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
Thursday at Astros: Chris Carpenter vs. Andy Pettitte 7:05pm FSNM/ESPN2
Friday at Marlins: Jeff Suppan vs. Sergio Mitre 6:35pm FSNM
Saturday at Marlins: Mark Mulder vs. Dontrelle Willis 5:05pm FSNM
Sunday at Marlins: Sidney Ponson vs. Scott Olsen 12:05pm WB11

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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