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Astros short hops
10/19/2004 1:22 AM ET
HOUSTON -- The first inning of Monday's Game 5 was a good indication that this was not your usual National League Championship Series game.


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At least not this offense-dominated NLCS. In Game 5, the Astros and Cardinals both were unable to score in the first inning for the first time in the series, and Astros starter Brandon Backe and Cardinals counterpart Woody Williams continued to put up zeroes.

The teams combined for four hits, by far the fewest in an NLCS game. The previous low was seven, by the Astros and Mets in Game 4 of the 1986 NLCS. Backe and Astros closer Brad Lidge limited the Cardinals to one hit, matching the all-time LCS low, and one total base, a record. The Cardinals were the fourth team limited to one hit, joining the 1974 A's, the 1990 Pirates and the 2000 Mariners.

Vitals check
A look at key statistics through Game 5 of the NLCS.

Team stats

Digits Trend The Deal
ERA 4.81 Youngsters Backe, Lidge looked like postseason veterans
BA .248 Game 5 was tough on hitters
BA w/ RISP .241, 7-for-29 1-for-2 with RISP in Game 5, and Jeff Kent’s HR was a big one
Runs 25 When you win, three runs and three hits are plenty
Errors 2 Games 3, 4 and 5 played error-free

Who was hot?

Player Digits The Deal
Carlos Beltran .471, 9 R, 4 HRs, 5 RBIs Set the table for the Astros’ game-winning rally
Jeff Kent .222, 3 HR, 7 RBIs Three of his four hits have cleared the fence

Who was not?

Player Digits The Deal
Morgan Ensberg .111, 2-for-18, HR, 2 RBIs Not alone; four Astros starters held hitless in Game 5

Behind the numbers
Backe has good stuff; a 91 to 94 mph fastball, a curveball that he can throw for strikes, an occasional changeup and slider. But he pitched the best game of his Major League life in Game 5 (eight shutout innings, one hit) because he was aggressive against the Cardinals' imposing lineup. Backe started the first six hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike, 12 of his first 14 and 17 of 27 overall.

Frozen moment
They call Beltran "Superman," and he showed why in the late innings. Beltran laid out to make a diving, inning-ending catch in the seventh inning, then scaled Tal's Hill in center field for the first out of the eighth. Both balls could have kick-started Cardinals rallies.

Slick move
Lidge had pitched two innings in each of Games 3 and 4 and thrown 68 total pitches, but Astros manager Phil Garner turned to him again in the ninth inning of a scoreless Game 5. Lidge, whose availability was in doubt before the game, came through with a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 inning, and the Astros won in the bottom of the inning. No one was looking forward to Tuesday's day off more than Lidge.

Going deep
Kent belted the second postseason walk-off home run in Astros history, joining Alan Ashby, who ended Game 1 of the 1981 NLDS against the Dodgers (a two-run shot off Dave Stewart in the ninth). And it was just the fifth game-ending home run in NLCS history, the first since New York's Lenny Dykstra beat the Astros in Game 3 of the 1986 NLCS.

Where are the runs?
When the Astros and Cardinals went into the ninth inning knotted in a scoreless tie, it marked just the third time in NLCS history and the first time that the home team won. Atlanta and Pittsburgh did it in Game 6 of the 1991 NLCS (Atlanta won on the road) and the Pirates and Reds took a scoreless tie into the 10th inning of Game 1 of the 1970 NLCS (Cincinnati won, also at Three Rivers Stadium).

Last word
"We have to go play the same way we are playing here at home. We know they have a good team and they can get back, but, also, we have a good team. We showed that we can get back, and now we have the lead. We've got to go to their house and try to get them over there."
-- Beltran

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


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