The Cardinals, already off to a slow start and then still reeling from the death of right-hander Josh Hancock last Sunday, broke a five-game slide with spotless relief pitching against the Houston Astros.
Right-hander Ryan Franklin fanned three batters in one inning for the second appearance in succession. Left-hander Randy Flores got a key strikeout in the eighth on Astros right fielder Luke Scott. And right-hander Jason Isringhausen, little used lately because the Cardinals haven't been ahead, retired the last five men in order for his seventh save in eight chances.
"That's a major-league-plus save when you've got to get five outs," said manager Tony La Russa. "Hopefully, he won't have to do that too often."
Asked if this might be the tonic for the club, La Russa said, "You've got to start somewhere. You can't walk in there and keep saying, 'Hang with 'em.'"
La Russa wouldn't ordinarily go to Franklin and Isringhausen as early as he did, but he said, "We had a lot of rested relievers. You want to go to your horses. They're either good enough or they're not."
The Cardinals will never be able to really "move on" from Hancock's death, just as La Russa said they hadn't "moved on" from Darryl Kile's death five years ago.
"You've just got to tough it out, just like people tough out their lives."
CARDINALS 3, HOUSTON 2: Adam Wainwright, who hadn't won in more than two weeks, worked six strong innings and was pulled after 88 pitches rather than going past 100 as he had a couple of times lately. The Cardinals finally got to former teammate Woody Williams the third time through the lineup. Chris Duncan singled home one run in a three-run fifth and Albert Pujols, extending his hitting streak to 12 games, doubled home two others.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--The Cardinals' three runs in the fifth snapped a scoreless streak of 19 innings.
--RHP Jason Isringhausen's 256th career save tied him with former Cardinals RHP Todd Worrell for 24th on the career list.
--The 3-2 win rekindled memories of the late Josh Hancock, who wore No. 32. "I didn't realize that until I came in here (the clubhouse)," said manager Tony La Russa. "I'm glad that it worked out that way."