10/19/2004 1:22 AM ET
Astros short hops
Teams set record for fewest hits in an NLCS game
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
| NLCS: News | Video | Audio | Photos
Astros walk off with NLCS lead
Kent's walk-off homer: 56K | 350K
Carlos Beltran's sliding catch: 56K | 350K
HOUSTON -- The first inning of Monday's Game 5 was a good indication that this was not your usual National League Championship Series game.
At least not this offense-dominated NLCS. In Game 5, the Astros and Cardinals both were unable to score in the first inning for the first time in the series, and Astros starter Brandon Backe and Cardinals counterpart Woody Williams continued to put up zeroes.
The teams combined for four hits, by far the fewest in an NLCS game. The previous low was seven, by the Astros and Mets in Game 4 of the 1986 NLCS. Backe and Astros closer Brad Lidge limited the Cardinals to one hit, matching the all-time LCS low, and one total base, a record. The Cardinals were the fourth team limited to one hit, joining the 1974 A's, the 1990 Pirates and the 2000 Mariners.
A look at key statistics through Game 5 of the NLCS.
||Youngsters Backe, Lidge looked like postseason veterans
||Game 5 was tough on hitters
|BA w/ RISP
||1-for-2 with RISP in Game 5, and Jeff Kent’s HR was a big one
||When you win, three runs and three hits are plenty
||Games 3, 4 and 5 played error-free
Who was hot?
||.471, 9 R, 4 HRs, 5 RBIs
||Set the table for the Astros’ game-winning rally
||.222, 3 HR, 7 RBIs
||Three of his four hits have cleared the fence
Who was not?
||.111, 2-for-18, HR, 2 RBIs
||Not alone; four Astros starters held hitless in Game 5
Behind the numbers
Backe has good stuff; a 91 to 94 mph fastball, a curveball that he can throw for strikes, an occasional changeup and slider. But he pitched the best game of his Major League life in Game 5 (eight shutout innings, one hit) because he was aggressive against the Cardinals' imposing lineup. Backe started the first six hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike, 12 of his first 14 and 17 of 27 overall.
They call Beltran "Superman," and he showed why in the late innings. Beltran laid out to make a diving, inning-ending catch in the seventh inning, then scaled Tal's Hill in center field for the first out of the eighth. Both balls could have kick-started Cardinals rallies.
Lidge had pitched two innings in each of Games 3 and 4 and thrown 68 total pitches, but Astros manager Phil Garner turned to him again in the ninth inning of a scoreless Game 5. Lidge, whose availability was in doubt before the game, came through with a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 inning, and the Astros won in the bottom of the inning. No one was looking forward to Tuesday's day off more than Lidge.
Kent belted the second postseason walk-off home run in Astros history, joining Alan Ashby, who ended Game 1 of the 1981 NLDS against the Dodgers (a two-run shot off Dave Stewart in the ninth). And it was just the fifth game-ending home run in NLCS history, the first since New York's Lenny Dykstra beat the Astros in Game 3 of the 1986 NLCS.
Where are the runs?
When the Astros and Cardinals went into the ninth inning knotted in a scoreless tie, it marked just the third time in NLCS history and the first time that the home team won. Atlanta and Pittsburgh did it in Game 6 of the 1991 NLCS (Atlanta won on the road) and the Pirates and Reds took a scoreless tie into the 10th inning of Game 1 of the 1970 NLCS (Cincinnati won, also at Three Rivers Stadium).
"We have to go play the same way we are playing here at home. We know they have a good team and they can get back, but, also, we have a good team. We showed that we can get back, and now we have the lead. We've got to go to their house and try to get them over there."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.