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Astros pleased with Munro's effort
10/14/2004 11:53 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- It was cold and it was rainy. For Pete Munro, it felt just like home.

"Everybody was joking, 'This is New York weather,'" said Munro, who grew up in the shadow of Shea Stadium in Queens. "I didn't feel uncomfortable out there. During the latter part of the game, the mound started getting a little damp. But what can you do? You go out there and throw strikes."

That's just what Munro did in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, pitching for the first time this postseason in conditions better suited for football than the national pastime.

Munro dodged trouble through four scoreless frames before running into trouble in the fifth inning of an eventual 6-4 Astros' loss to the Cardinals.

When he left the game, there was a man on first base and the Astros were still clinging to a 3-2 lead. It wasn't pretty, and the lead didn't last, but Munro did what the Astros asked him to do.

Maybe more.

"He did more than what we were asking him to do," catcher Brad Ausmus said. "We didn't think he would be able to go very far because he hadn't pitched for so long. But he got us into the fifth inning."

Munro had not pitched since Oct. 1, when he allowed one run in 2 2/3 innings against Colorado before getting lifted for a pinch-hitter. He watched from the bullpen as Houston gutted its way through the National League Division Series with the Braves, patiently waiting for his chance to chip in.

Was he rusty?

"Did it look like it?" Munro asked.

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"I felt great, from the first pitch in the bullpen to the last pitch in the game," he said. "I was throwing strikes. I was getting ahead of guys. I was making them put the ball in play. That's a pitcher's job."

The Cardinals forced Munro to bend early, but he did not break. Tony Womack singled leading off the first inning and advanced to second on Munro's throwing error. But Munro rebounded to retire Larry Walker, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen in order to escape.

After a 1-2-3 second inning, Munro was in trouble again in the third, when Mike Matheny stood at third base as the potential tying run. Munro fanned Walker on a called third strike.

But his biggest escape act came in the fourth inning, when the Cardinals had runners at second and third with one out, and the Astros trying to hold a 2-0 lead. Munro got Edgar Renteria to line out to second base before inducing a Reggie Sanders groundout.

"I was pretty pumped," Munro said. "Any time you have runners in scoring position with this lineup, it can be devastating. I was able to turn it around."

He could not do the same in the fifth. Pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson drew a leadoff walk -- Munro's only free pass of the game -- and two batters later, Walker pounded a changeup for a two-run home run.

"I struck him out in his first at-bat with it," Munro said of Walker. "I think he might have been looking off speed, the way he swung at it."

Pujols followed with a single, and on came reliever Chad Harville, who promptly surrendered the lead on Scott Rolen's two-run shot.

"I feel bad for him, because he pitched so well," Harville said of Munro. "He hadn't pitched for two weeks and he did the job for us."

Munro admitted he would have liked to be the one facing Rolen.

"But that's skip's [manager Phil Garner's] call, and I respect that," he said. "Apparently, he might have thought I was getting tired and he wanted to keep us in the game."

Harville could not get it done.

"It's not easy," Munro said. "He's pitching with his heart. He's not trying to do it. He's trying to come in and get guys out."

The Astros rallied to tie it, but the Cardinals pushed ahead in the eighth with homers by Pujols and another by Rolen. With co-aces Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt scheduled to start Games 3 and 4, and potentially Games 6 and 7, Munro will head to the bullpen.

"He hung four zeroes up there and got us into the fifth inning," Astros pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "If you would have told us before the game that he was going to pitch 4 2/3 or five competitive innings, we probably would have taken that. He did a real good job."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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