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Cardinals short hops
10/19/2004 12:22 AM ET
HOUSTON -- And now they are beginning to feel the heat.

The Cards won a Major League-high 105 games during the regular season and were expected to waltz into the World Series for the first time since 1987. They made short work of the Dodgers in a four-game National League Division Series and started off the NL Championship Series with two victories over the Wild Card-winning Astros.

But a team that wasn't pressed during the regular season -- they won the NL Central by 13 games over Houston -- now faces a pair of elimination games in Busch Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday after Monday night's 3-0 loss in Game 5 at Minute Maid Park.

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The Astros held serve, winning all three games at home in the series, and now lead, 3-2, with a chance to wrap up their first NL pennant in Game 6.

"There hasn't been one situation this team faced where I haven't liked our chances," manager Tony La Russa said. "I really like this club. I know we'll be ready Wednesday. We understand we have to win the game to play on Thursday. So I like our chances and I love our club."

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

Team stats

Digits Trend The Deal
ERA 5.31 Bullpen really struggled for three days at Minute Maid Park
BA .226 Went from bad to worse, with even the vaunted middle of the lineup not hitting
Runs 23 Shut out for the second time in nine playoff games
Errors 0 Spectacular plays on grounders by Scott Rolen at third and Albert Pujols at first

Who's hot?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Woody Williams 1-0, 2.27 ERA Needed a good outing from a starter and got one from Game 1 winner
Tony Womack .143 (3-for-21, 1 RBI, 3 R) His single broke up Brandon Backe's no-hitter with two out in the sixth

Who's not?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Reggie Sanders .071 (1-for-14, 1 R) Missing in action like he has been in most of his postseasons
Edgar Renteria .059 (1-for-17, one single) His .455 NLDS average vs. Dodgers must seem like ancient history

Behind the numbers
You can't win many games when you get only one hit -- Womack's single. The big four in the lineup -- Larry Walker, Pujols, Rolen and Jim Edmonds -- were 0-for-12 with two walks.

Frozen moment
In a scoreless game, every defensive gem counts. Rolen made one, diving to his right to snare a Jeff Bagwell grounder to open the fourth inning. Rolen threw Bagwell out by five steps from his knees. Ditto Pujols, who dived toward the line on Carlos Beltran's smash to open the sixth. He collected the ball in time to flip to Williams covering first base.

Second guess
La Russa had Lance Berkman with a 2-2 count and one out after Beltran stole second uncontested in the ninth. He opted to walk Berkman intentionally to face Jeff Kent, who's batting .222 in the series. On Jason Isringhausen's next pitch, Kent hit the three-run homer that won the game.

Oops, here it is
The Cards are in jeopardy of becoming the third team in the 36-year history of the NLCS to lose a series after taking a 2-0 lead. The Dodgers lost to the Cards in 1985 and the Cubs lost to the Padres in 1984.

Last word
"We had three tough ballgames in Houston. All three games could have gone either way. I believe we'll bounce back and be ready to play the next game." -- Williams

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

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