The offense was quieted once Weaver lost the lead in the sixth. Preston Wilson had hit a two-run home run, but struck out in the ninth with the tying run in scoring position. Juan Encarnacion singled, tripled, scored and drove in one. Scott Rolen was ejected from the game after striking out and going 0-for-3.
Yet, there is always hope with Albert Pujols at the plate against Brad Lidge in the ninth. Pujols didn't disappoint as he stroked his MLB-best 23rd game-winning RBI of the season. The double scored the tying and winning runs to end the game.
One year ago today
On September 12, 2005, John Rodriguez drove home Skip Schumaker with a base hit in the ninth for the winning run in a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh at Busch. Schumaker led the inning off with a double, the only extra-base hit by the Redbirds. Albert Pujols had a key pinch-hit single in the seventh inning that scored Schumaker. Jason Isringhausen earned the win, his first of the season and first since the previous September 17.
Jeff Weaver (3-4, 5.19) vs. Andy Pettitte (13-13, 4.34).
Wilson (RF), Spiezio (LF), Pujols, Rolen, Encarnacion (CF), Belliard, Miles, Molina and Weaver.
In: Preston Wilson.
Out: Chris Duncan.
Aaron Miles was dropped down in the order against the lefty Pettitte. Scott Spiezio moved up from #5 to #2.
On to the game…
Astros first – In like a Lamb
Lefty Mike Lamb crushed a ball out to right field. Astros 1-0.
Cards first – Randy Andy
Six pitches, three outs.
Cards second – Coldly efficient
Seven more pitches and three more outs.
Astros third – RISP in every inning
With one out, Lamb doubled down the left field line. Actually, this was an improvement. He was stranded. Weaver has already thrown 55 pitches, so the pen had better be ready.
Cards third – First hit a big one
Miles drew a leadoff walk to represent the Cardinals' first baserunner of the evening. He moved up on a Molina ground out that Pettitte managed to slow as it went up the middle. With two out, Preston Wilson mashed a ball of his own, with a two-run home run to left center. It was his sixth long ball as a Cardinal and 15th overall this season. Eric Bruntlett made a fielding error at short to allow Spiezio to reach. Pettitte was pulled from the game, perhaps with continued elbow pain. Chris Sampson was given all the time he needed to warm up and eventually retired Pujols. Cards 2-1.
Astros fourth – Weaver can't hold lead
Leading off, Luke Scott singled off Weaver, as Barry Weinberg and Tony La Russa sprinted out of the dugout to check him. Weaver remained in the game and promptly walked Chris Burke. Bruntlett singled off Weaver, too, literally. The ball went to Miles, but he couldn't quite make the play as the ball was stuck in his glove. Bases loaded with no out. Tyler Johnson hurriedly warmed up in the bullpen. Former Cardinal and lefty batter Orlando Palmeiro put Houston back in the lead with a two-run single up the middle. I think I could hit off Weaver. (Yes, I am left-handed.) A 6-4-3 turned nicely by Belliard kept matters from being a lot worse. Astros 3-2.
Cards fourth – Starting over
Encarnacion tripled into the right field corner with one out. Good to see that speed and hustle. Never sure about this guy. Miles was walked intentionally to get to Molina. His bloop hit tied the game as the hustling Miles took third base. But, Weaver was the third out. Tie 3-3. Astros fifth – The cat
Like a cat with nine lives, Weaver stayed on and got his three outs in order.
Cards fifth – Lead retaken
Against Dave Borkowski, Spiezio stroked a ground-rule double to right. Pujols was put on first base via an intentional pass. Rolen was called out on strikes, then ejected from the game by the home plate umpire Tim Tschida. Encarnacion singled for an RBI, but Belliard couldn't inflict more damage. Cards 4-3.
Astros sixth – Lead lost
Scott walked and Burke brought them both around on a two-run homer. I feel sick. Weaver departed in favor of Josh Hancock, who fanned the side. Astros 5-4.
Cards sixth – Springing to action
Former Cardinal Russ Springer came on to pitch and retired the three hitters in order.
Astros seventh – Johnson living dangerously
With Tyler Johnson pitching, speedy Willy Taveras laid down a bunt. Johnson fielded it, but threw wildly, putting the runner in scoring position. Taveras took third as Lamb was tagged out for the first out. But, Johnson fanned the dangerous Lance Berkman and escaped his self-made jam.
Cards seventh – A runner
Spiezio flied out to the track against Chad Qualls. Pujols walked before Duncan fanned for the third out.
Astros eighth – Looper ducks jam
Scott hit the deck due to an inside pitch, but did not take a step toward first before the home plate ump awarded him first. La Russa argued there was no hit batter and replays seemed to agree. But, of course, he lost the argument. Johnson left in favor of Braden Looper. Scott was sacrificed to second. Looper collected the third out without incident.
Cards eighth – No offensive pulse
Dan Wheeler became the sixth Astros pitcher and did his job.
Astros ninth – Looper holds ‘em
Taveras doubled past first base off Looper. Berkman took an intentional walk, but oddly his manager and trainer came out to first base to check on him. Looper got Aubrey Huff on a liner to center for the final out.
Cards ninth – Pujols vs. Lidge again
Closer Brad Lidge came in. Batting for Molina, John Rodriguez stroked a single to right leading off. Skip Schumaker ran for him. Jose Vizcaino expertly bunted Skip over. Preston Wilson fanned. Spiezio was hit by a pitch. Pujols shot an inside pitch into the left field corner. As the ball eluded the left fielder, both runners scored without a throw. The double was Pujols' 23rd game-winning RBI of the season. Cards 6-5.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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