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Astros keys to victory in NLCS
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10/12/2004 1:50 AM ET
Astros keys to victory in NLCS
Five points for Houston to hit on road to World Series
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1. Stay "wild"
Houston is doing just what Florida did last year and what Anaheim did the year before. The Astros believe in themselves, they finished the season hotter than anyone else in surviving the Wild Card race, and they are playing as a team that is out to prove something. It has been a winning formula in Major League Baseball recently and the key for Houston is to simply keep doing what has gotten them into the NLCS -- as simple as that may sound.

2. Don't let 7-through-1 beat you
The Astros have to clamp down on Reggie Sanders, Mike Matheny, the pitcher and Tony Womack, because it has proven virtually impossible to hold down the 2-through-6 assault force in the St. Louis order. Los Angeles had trouble with the bottom of the order, but it was able to keep Womack off the basepaths most of the time. No point in giving Larry Walker & Co. more RBI opportunities.

Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Game 1 at St. Louis         STL 10, HOU 7
Game 2 at St. Louis Thu. Oct. 14 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 3 at Houston Sat. Oct. 16 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 4 at Houston Sun. Oct. 17 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 5* at Houston Mon. Oct. 18 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 6* at St. Louis Wed. Oct. 20 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 7* at St. Louis Thu. Oct. 21 8:00 p.m. FOX  
 * If necessary

3. Work the pitch count
St. Louis starters generally have the luxury of run support, but it's important for Houston to tax those starters and chase them early to avoid playing into Tony La Russa's hands with his many late situational switches.

4. Get extended innings from at least one of the first two starting pitchers
The bullpen is in rough shape because of its work in the series vs. Atlanta, and even with Tuesday's travel day, it could use a lengthy outing or two from the starting staff.

5. Make Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds beat you
Until Rolen shows he is recovered from his calf injury, don't take too many chances with Albert Pujols in the 3-hole. Edmonds struck out nine times in the Dodgers series and the Astros will try to keep him from extending that swing.

Mark Newman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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