Game 53 – Astros 8, Cardinals 3

On Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park, the Houston Astros defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to tie their weekend series at one game apiece. Kip Wells took his tenth loss of the season.

The Cardinals' Kip Wells (2-10, 6.40) was defeated by the Astros' Chris Sampson (5-5, 3.43), who went a career-long eight innings. Sampson didn't strike out a single Cardinals hitter, yet retired 14 of his last 15 batters faced. The 23-30 Cards' three-game winning streak ended.

The Cardinals went down in the first inning without scoring for the 48th time in 53 games so far this season. Not so for Houston. In the bottom of the inning, Craig Biggio reached on an infield single leading off for the home team. Hunter Pence singled, too. After a fielders' choice, a sac fly by Carlos Lee plated the first run of the game.

The lead didn't last long as Astros killer Jim Edmonds lofted a solo home run to right leading off the second. Juan Encarnacion reached via a walk and took third on Ryan Ludwick's standup double into the right field corner. He scored on Aaron Miles' sac fly to give the Cardinals the 2-1 lead.

Adam Everett snatched the lead away from the Cards quickly, too, as he homered into that awful short left field porch in the bottom of the second to re-tie the game at two.

The Cards retook the lead in the fourth. Encarnacion led off with a double past third base. In a very odd play, Ludwick scorched a one-hopper off the scoreboard in left. Though Encarnacion stopped at third, Ludwick kept running and was thrown out at second base. Bennett collected the RBI on a sac fly to left. The throw from Lee in left was on time, but backup catcher Eric Munson couldn't handle it cleanly as Encarnacion slid into him carrying the Cards' third run. It would be the last offensive threat by the Cardinals on the day.

One inning later, Houston went back up as they sent eight men to the plate. Munson singled to lead off the home fifth and took third on a long single to left center by Adam Everett. Wells muffed a bunt by Sampson, with the error allowing the bases to load up, still with no outs. Pence dropped a two-run double down the right field line to enable the Astros to take the lead back. They expanded the lead to 5-3 on a ground out.

Houston and Luke Scott specifically expanded the lead to 6-3 with a solo home run deep to left center to start the sixth. A walk to Munson ended Wells' day. Five of the six runs Wells allowed in his five-plus innings were earned. Tyler Johnson relieved and collected three outs with no further damage.

Kelvin Jimenez walked Lance Berkman with one out in the seventh. That hurt, as Carlos Lee's home run just eluded a leaping Encarnacion, who looked like he leapt too soon and missed a tough, but catchable ball. The two-run shot increased Houston's lead to 8-3 and closed out the day's scoring.

Game Notes:

- The Cardinals offense disappeared after the fourth inning. Saturday's few offensive leaders include Jim Edmonds, who hit a solo home run, Ryan Ludwick, who singled and doubled and Juan Encarnacion, who doubled and scored two of the Cards' three runs.

- Chris Duncan hasn't played since last Sunday and remains in St. Louis trying to recover from his knee infection. David Eckstein is out after getting hit on the elbow Friday night, his first game after returning from a sore back. Scott Rolen is expected to be out the weekend due to a hamstring injury.

- Number 63, Brendan Ryan came into the game at shortstop via a double switch in the seventh inning and made the next out as he ran down a ball in foul territory. He grounded out to short in his only plate appearance. It was Ryan's Major League debut.

- Number 35, Brian Esposito also made his first MLB appearance, as he relieved Gary Bennett behind the plate for the final two innings. He did not get an at-bat.

- In the rubber match of the series on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 P.M. CDT, Braden Looper (6-4, 3.64) takes on Jason Jennings (0-1, 2.12).

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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