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Cards batter Astros in Game 110/14/2004 7:34 AM ET
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The gang's all here.
The Cardinals got contributions from all over their lineup in a 10-7 win over the Astros in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night. It was St. Louis' first win in an NLCS opener in four tries under manager Tony La Russa.
Woody Williams pitched six effective innings for the win against his hometown team. He also doubled to start a two-run, fifth-inning rally that tied the game. The Cards exploited Houston's sometimes shaky middle relief with a six-run sixth.
Things got a little dicey in the ninth inning when Mike Lamb homered with two outs and Craig Biggio doubled. But Jason Isringhausen came on to record the final out and nail down the save. St. Louis relievers allowed three runs over the final two innings, after giving up just one tally in four games of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers.
Redbirds pitchers had plenty of room for error, though, thanks to another explosive performance by the National League's most prolific offense. Six different Cardinals drove in at least one run, spearheaded by key hits from Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.
"That's been one of the things all season for us, all the way from one to nine," said Rolen, who ended an 0-for-14 playoff drought. "We have Woody hitting in the nine hole -- that's a pretty good hitter right there. So from one to nine, a lot of things happen. We won a lot of games in the Division Series [with the] six, seven, eight, nine [hitters]. ... We have a lot of threats in the lineup."
It's hard to pick an offensive hero from this one. Playing in his first LCS game, Larry Walker scored three runs and went 3-for-5, finishing a homer shy of becoming the first player in postseason history to hit for the cycle. Albert Pujols went deep for the third time this postseason, reaching base four times. Edgar Renteria and Reggie Sanders each singled and scored.
None of that, however, was really new. All three players had big Division Series as the Cards rolled over the Dodgers with 22 runs in four games.
What made Wednesday night remarkable was that everybody got in on the act, including Rolen and Edmonds, who had both been relatively quiet in the first round. Rolen snapped his skid with a game-tying single, and Edmonds broke the game open with a three-run double in the fateful sixth. Edmonds struck out seven times and didn't drive in a run over the last three games of the Division Series.
"It's hard to explain," said Edmonds. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."
Eight of the nine St. Louis starters had at least one base hit. The one man held hitless, Mike Matheny, executed a perfect sacrifice bunt, and pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno got in the act with an RBI groundout. Continuing a pattern from the Division Series, seven of the Cards' 10 runs came with two outs.
The Astros won their final four games of the season against St. Louis, during which their middle relievers completely shut down the Cardinals' offense. Over those games, Chad Qualls, Chad Harville, Dan Miceli and Dan Wheeler combined to allow one run over 10 2/3 innings, striking out 12 and walking one.
On Wednesday, Houston's middle relief was vulnerable. Qualls was charged with five runs and Harville with one. Starter Brandon Backe put up a good fight pitching on short rest, but after he was lifted in the fifth, the game got out of hand.
"I just think we were ready to go," Renteria said. "We didn't make the same mistakes we did in the other games, when we swung at a lot of balls. Now, we're swinging at strikes. If we continue like that, we've got a chance to put good numbers up."
After two batters, Williams trailed, 2-0. Craig Biggio singled sharply up the middle, and Carlos Beltran followed with a homer to right. St. Louis got the runs back immediately, however. For the second straight series, a Pujols long ball -- this time of the two-run variety -- provided the Cards' first runs of the round.
"I felt good," Williams said. "Didn't feel real good after the first two hitters of the game by any stretch of the imagination, but I think I settled down pretty good. It was what I thought it was gonna be going in. I thought it was gonna be a battle, both sides never giving up."
A Jeff Kent homer put Houston ahead again in the fourth, but that lead lasted only an inning and a half as Williams and Walker doubled and Pujols walked to chase the starter Backe. Rolen singled off Qualls to tie the game, and St. Louis broke it open in the next inning against Qualls and Harville.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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