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Astros drop Game 6 nail-biter10/20/2004 5:51 PM ET
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Houston Astros experienced a bit of unwelcomed deja vu on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. The circumstances were slightly different than those from six days earlier, but the result was the same -- one bad Dan Miceli pitch and a 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Jim Edmonds, hitless in his previous four at-bats, took an 0-1 fastball from Miceli in the 12th inning and launched it far into the right-field stands, providing the second walk-off homer between these two teams in the last two games of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals' win tied the series at 3 and forced a decisive Game 7, which will be played Thursday evening at Busch Stadium. "Nothing has been easy," Jeff Bagwell said. "We've always been on the brink of elimination, always been playing must-win games. It's definitely a must-win now. So, here we go."
Last week, Miceli yielded back-to-back home runs to Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen in the eighth to break a 4-4 tie. This time, only one home run was required to abruptly end what had been a brilliant battle between two flawless bullpens.Miceli was the fifth reliever to pitch on the Astros' side, and the first to give up a run. Brad Lidge struck out five and was perfect from the ninth through the 11th, but he was lifted for pinch-hitter Brandon Backe in the 12th when manager Phil Garner had run out of bench players. That left Garner with a few choices to face the most dangerous part of the Cardinals' order, and he chose Miceli, who had not pitched since allowing the homers to Pujols and Rolen last week. "He's pitched for me in the eighth for quite some time," Garner said. "He's done a pretty good job of doing it. You've got to get the guy back on the horse when he falls off it."
The soft-spoken Miceli stood at his locker and fielded every question from reporters."I left a pitch up, again, and they hit it out, again," he said. "I got a few pitches up and they hit them out. I'm going through a tough stretch." He disregarded a suggestion that he might not be healthy. "I'm fine," he said. "I'm healthy. I just made some bad pitches." As frustrated as Miceli may have been, it was nothing compared to his teammates' disgust at being unable to do anything offensively during Lidge's three-inning, five-strikeout performance. Bagwell sparked the spirits in the dugout when he laced a two-out single off Jason Isringhausen in the ninth to tie the game at 4, but the Astros' scoring run stopped there. Lidge needed only 10 pitches to get through the ninth, and he was hoping the offense would render his services unnecessary beyond that frame. "You're hoping to come in and we'd win the game right there," Lidge said. "When that doesn't happen, you're a little disappointed, but you're just going to have to stay out there and give your team every chance to win. It didn't work out tonight but we're optimistic about tomorrow."
"That was the frustrating thing for us all day," Garner said. "We only put one run on the board at a time. We didn't string together hits. We couldn't get any offense generated. So, that was our frustration and it ended up costing us in the end.""You're facing Izzy and that's not the easiest chore in the world," Bagwell said. "But we had Brad in there and he's giving us every chance to come up there and get a run. We just couldn't scratch out another one. "Our bullpen did a tremendous job. I can't say enough about how well they did. It's tough to win in extra innings on the road. It's obviously disappointing to lose in 12 innings." The Astros will play Game 7 with absolutely no history on their side. Since going to a seven-game format in 1985, an LCS has now gone to the full seven games 11 times. The home team has won six of those series, including a perfect 3-for-3 after winning Game 6 at home. Home teams are 3-4 in Game 7 after having lost Game 6 at home. No road team has won a Game 7 after losing Game 6. But, hey, who needs history when you have Roger Clemens starting and Roy Oswalt available in relief? "You've got your two Cy Young candidates," Craig Biggio said. "One will be out in the bullpen and one will be on the mound. That breeds a lot of confidence." "This is what we've been looking for, where we are right now," Carlos Beltran said. "People thought we were going to be eliminated in the first round. Look at where we are right now. Tomorrow is the last game of this round and we just have to be good offensively, defenisvely and pitch well. If we're able to do those things, we're going to be fine."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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