Great Scott - Astros 7 - Cards 4

Houston Astros' Luke Scott celebrates as he runs the bases after hitting a game-winning three-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning of their Major League Baseball game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2006, in Houston. The Astros beat the Cardinals, 7-4.

The Cardinals "magic" number for clinching the N.L. Central title remains at 5 again, after the Astros defeated St. Louis 7-4 on Saturday night. Any combination of five Cardinals wins and/or Reds & Astros losses will give the Cards their third-straight N.L. Central title and at least a share of the division's top spot for the sixth time in seven seasons.

Saturday night, the Cardinals lost for the fifth time in the opponent's final at-bat on their current road trip.

The Cardinals tied the game in the seventh inning when Chris Duncan's 20th home run scored Eckstein. Duncan's homer was his 17th in the second half of the season, most ever by a St. Louis rookie.

The Astros took the lead again in the bottom of the seventh with a solo blast by Aubrey Huff on an 0-2 count by Cardinal reliever Jorge Sosa.

The Cardinals tied the game in the top of the ninth when shortstop David Eckstein doubled to score Jose Vizcaino from second, before Juan Encarnacion grounded with bases loaded into an unassisted feeders choice to third baseman Ensberg unassisted,

By winning the first three games of the four-game weekend series, the Astros post season hopes remain alive as they pull to within 4 1/2 games of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals with eight games remaining in the regular season. It ain't over until it's over.

The Astros will send future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens (7-5, 2.35 ERA) to the mound Sunday to face St. Louis' Jeff Weaver (4-4, 5.27 ERA).

Weaver will be making his 14th start of the season for the Cardinals and 30th overall in tomorrow night's series finale. He's the Cardinals best pitcher recently posting a 2-1 record with a 3.91 ERA in his last four starts.

Weaver will be making his second start of the season and 6th career vs. HOU. He is 2-3, 4.42 ERA career vs. the Astros and 1-1, 4.50 in two career starts at Minute Maid Park.

The Cardinals struggling on the road this season, hope that Weaver can salvage at least one game out of the four game set in Houston.

Weaver has gone 4-1 with a 3.96 ERA (138.2 IP/17 ER) in his seven road starts for St. Louis and he's won four of the Cards' 12 road victories since the All-Star break.

The Cardinals are still just two wins shy of producing their 7th-straight winning season and their 9th in 11 seasons under Manager Tony La Russa.

After Sunday's final game at Houston, the Cardinals will return home to end the regular season with a critical three game series against the San Diego Padres who at this time, maintain a half game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

Following the Padres, the Milwaukee Brewers will close out the first season at Busch Stadium III with a four game series that could still impact the Cardinals post-season aspirations and possible home field advantage in the National League Division series.

Hopefully the Cardinals will find a way to put together a couple of wins in the final week of the season. With two wins, it would be only the third time in franchise history that the club has put together a winning string of seven or more seasons, while also equaling their 7-year run from 1925 to 1931. The club record for consecutive winning seasons is 15 from 1939 to 1953.

St. Louis is just 32-34 since the All Star Break and Redbird fans across Cardinal Nation are wondering if the Cardinals are even capable of holding onto the NL Central Division title in the final week of the season.

With eight games left in the regular season, Houston has pulled within 4 1/2 games and while it is hard to imagine the Cards could squander that type of lead in the final week of the season, the season quencher cannot come soon enough for Cardinal fans.

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