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Cards see early lead slip away10/17/2004 6:35 PM ET
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The Cardinals were able to contain Carlos Beltran ... for all of six innings.
The most dominant hitter in this year's postseason did it again, golfing a solo homer off Julian Tavarez in the seventh inning as the Astros came from behind to beat St. Louis, 6-5, in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
Houston, which has won 21 of 22 at home dating back to the regular season, pulled even in the NLCS at two games each. St. Louis has lost its last six games at Minute Maid Park and has seen a 2-0 series lead vanish.
A bullpen that was a strength all year continued to struggle in the LCS, with Houston plating three runs against right-handers Kiko Calero and Tavarez. After a brilliant fifth in which he escaped from trouble, Calero was touched for two in the sixth. The Cards led 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3, but couldn't hold on.
Beltran's homer gave the outfielder a record-tying eight long balls this postseason. Cardinals relievers have allowed nine runs in four games. After Tavarez served up the shot, he lost his cool and his command, hitting two batters with off-target pitches and later taking out his anger on the dugout phone.
"I tried hard to come back, to calm down," Tavarez said. "Pujols tried to call me out, get me to calm down. I just lost my cool. ... I was really mad. I was upset with myself because of the way [Lance] Berkman hit the ball."
Jason Marquis scuffled through his second subpar game in as many playoff starts. Marquis had better command on Sunday than he did 10 days earlier against the Dodgers, but the results were similar. He was lifted with no outs and a runner on first in the fifth inning.
"I felt great, felt like I could go further," Marquis said. "I don't know how many pitches I had, but it couldn't have been too high. I felt good. I thought I was gonna keep going. Obviously when Tony came out of the dugout, it was a different plan."
The right-hander had a lead from the moment he took the mound, but never seized control of the game. Berkman's two-run double in the fourth, following a pair of soft singles, pulled Houston within a run after the Cards had been threatening to put the game out of reach.
When Craig Biggio led off the fifth with a single, Marquis gave way to Calero, who struck out Beltran and Jeff Bagwell. Biggio ran into the third out when he was caught stealing.
"I made a mistake to Berkman that cost me two runs," said Marquis. "I don't think it cost me the outing."
On the offensive side, the Redbirds once again were unable to deliver a knockout against a Houston starter who was in less than top form. They jumped ahead of Roy Oswalt early, thanks to an Albert Pujols home run, and added single runs in the third and fourth. But Oswalt was able to breeze through a five-pitch fifth inning after needing 79 tosses to get through four, and he went on to survive the sixth.
"Your game plan doesn't change when you have a couple good innings or a couple bad innings," said Jim Edmonds, who was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. "You can't really change your game plan in the middle of the game. Against a guy like that, you can't pick and choose what you want to do. You just go out there and try to have good at-bats."
A one-run fourth could have been even bigger. Marquis led off with a single, but was thrown out trying to take second on the ball. The next three batters reached, capped by Pujols' RBI single, but Scott Rolen flied out to end the threat.
"I came out and made the turn, I saw Berkman with his head down and he bobbled it for a second," Marquis said. "I thought I could take second base. That's just an instinct move. It's something that I've done my whole life. Obviously it turned out not for the good, but I don't think it hurt us. We did score a run that inning. Maybe it jump-started things."
After Oswalt held the Cards off in the fifth and sixth, the Astros took their shot at the St. Louis bullpen. Berkman ripped a 3-1 fastball for a homer to pull the 'Stros within one, but Calero retired the next two batters and had a chance to get out of the inning.
Jose Vizcaino's double proved costly, though, as Raul Chavez followed with an RBI single to tie it up.
"Against Berkman, I threw a fastball, but it was up and out," Calero said. "And then I threw my breaking pitch. I think it was a strike, but he called a ball. That's fine. Then I had to come back with my fastball 3-1, because we're winning 5-3 and I don't want to walk this guy. But it was right there."
Dan Wheeler kept up his outstanding pitching against St. Louis, and Brad Lidge pitched the final two innings for his second save in as many days.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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