Game Observations – Thursday – Astros 4-3

The Astros swept the Cards in the two-game series as St. Louis took their fourth straight defeat.

The Houston Astros took the second of their two-game home series against the Cardinals, winning 4-3 on Thursday evening and earning a sweep. The Astros improved their record to 19-9, while the Cards are now 17-12, having lost four in a row for the first time since 2004.

Chris Carpenter was not his usual sharp self, but got through six innings allowing four runs on six hits. Adam Wainwright pitched two perfect innings in relief. Offensively, So Taguchi had a two-run double. Scott Rolen singled, doubled and walked in his first four plate appearances back from illness.

One year ago today
On May 4, 2005, the Cardinals were off. They were traveling from Cincinnati back home to face the Padres starting on the fifth.

The match-up
Chris Carpenter and Andy Pettitte locked horns.

The line-up
Eckstein, Luna, Pujols, Encarnacion, Rolen, Edmonds, Molina, Taguchi and Carpenter. Hot-hitting Juan Encarnacion was installed in the clean-up spot and Jim Edmonds was dropped to six. Scott Rolen returned to the lineup as the #5 man. Hector Luna moved from #8 to #2 and Yadier Molina returned from a day off.

On to the game…

Cards first – No go
Jason Lane made a nice sliding catch in right to retire Luna. When Pujols hit a grounder to second, he limped out of the box and moved slowly down the line. Either it was because he had fouled a ball off his shin or his back is acting up. Let's hope it is the former.

Astros first – Trouble averted
Craig Biggio beat out a bouncer to third that Rolen struggled with before throwing late to first. Willy Taveras walked, but a double play off the bat of Lance Berkman made two quick outs. Carpenter put an exclamation point on it by fanning Morgan Ensberg swinging.

Cards second – Out on top
Juan Encarnacion singled leading off. A one-out single by Edmonds and Molina getting hit by a pitch loaded the bases. So Taguchi shot a double into the left field corner, scoring two and leaving two in scoring position. But, Carpenter and Eckstein didn't deliver more. Cards 2-0.

Astros second – Rolen gets work
Rolen made a patented diving stop to his right, throwing out Jason Lane. He also returned the next batter, Brad Ausmus, to end the inning.

Cards third – Two out rally falls short
Pujols came to the plate wearing a pad on his lead, or left shin, likely as a result of his first at-bat. Encarnacion, swinging at the first pitch again, singled sharply to left with two out. Rolen looked nice doubling into the left field corner to put two in scoring position. Edmonds lined out to center for the third out.

Astros third – Eight is not enough
Carpenter has retired eight Astros in a row.

Cards fourth – Carp wears out Andy
Pettitte also took care of his three men, ending with Carpenter's eight pitch at-bat. The Astros starter is over 80 pitches on the night, though.

Astros fourth – Fit to be…
Taveras was hit by a pitch leading off. He and Pujols were pictured having a nice chat at first base afterward. I wish players wouldn't do that, but I am a traditionalist, bred on Bob Gibson. Berkman followed with a home run off the top of the tricked-up wall in left that supports the silly train tracks. Tie 2-2.

Cards fifth – Out, out, out
The top of the line-up produced a fly out and a couple of ground outs.

Astros fifth – Lead lost
Adam Everett doubled off a sign in left as the ball ricocheted back into play. Taguchi recovered nicely, almost catching Everett at second base. Pettitte walked! Taveras made him pay with a two-out RBI single to left. Astros 3-2.

Cards sixth – No striking right back
Rolen drew a free pass with one out. A 4-6-3 double play from Edmonds ended that.

Astros sixth – Carp tiring?
Ensberg slapped a lead-off double into the left field corner. Preston Wilson moved him over on a fly ball to right. Lane dropped an RBI single in front of Encarnacion, Pujols and Luna in short right. An easy 6-4-3 ended it, but the damage was done. Astros 4-2.

Cards seventh – Clawing back closer
Leading off, Molina singled to right. Everett made a great diving stop on a Taguchi grounder to force Molina at second base. As Scott Spiezio hit for Carpenter, Taguchi swiped second base without even drawing a throw. Pettitte left the game after Eckstein singled up the middle to score So. Taveras bobbled the ball in center, but Taguchi would likely have been safe, anyway. Chad Qualls took over and retired Luna. Astros 4-3.

Astros seventh – WW ok
Adam Wainwright took over on the mound and in a mild surprise in his first game back, Rolen stayed in the game as Spiezio was stationed at second base.

Cards eighth – Last chances for big guns
Dan Wheeler was asked to pitch to Pujols and got his man. Rolen singled to left with two outs but was stranded as Edmonds fanned swinging again.

Astros eighth – No more
Wainwright continued for a second inning. Eckstein made a nice dive and throw play to just beat the speedy Taveras to first. Ensberg took a low called strike three to end it. Wainwright fanned three in two innings.

Cards ninth – Two on, none in
Closer Brad Lidge came on to get the last three outs. Pinch-hitter John Rodriguez was up first and singled off the second baseman. Aaron Miles struck out, but Spiezio drew a walk. Eckstein flied out to center. Gary Bennett pinch-hit for Wainwright with Pujols on deck, but ground into a game-ending force out.

Upcoming action (times CDT)
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 brwalton@earthlink.net.

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