HOUSTON -- St. Louis manager Mike Matheny may not be too sad, given the way the weekend series in Minute Maid Park is going, that the Astros will be leaving the division for the American League West starting next spring.
But the former Brewers, Cardinals and Giants catcher still has vivid memories of opposing Houston on the field.
"Some of the best baseball games I ever played in were here, especially in '04 in that NLCS," Matheny said. "That was our World Series. We went to the World Series but we forgot to show up.
"That was a heavyweight fight, just the atmosphere," he said. "I remember walked off the field, they had the roof closed, came back in [the clubhouse] and my ears were ringing. It was so loud."
The Astros and Cardinals combined to win or tie for 11 of the 18 division titles (St. Louis with eight, Houston with four) since 1994, when the majors went to three divisions in each league. The two teams were co-NL Central champions in 2001. The Cardinals are 136-132 against the Astros in head-to-head play since 1994.
"It was always tough competition with [Jeff] Bagwell and [Craig] Biggio," Matheny said. "It was just good, hard-nosed baseball."
Lineup change pays off for Cards
Houston -- Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny was looking for creative ways to fit Allen Craig into the lineup. He may have found it.
Matheny put Craig in the clean-up spot and the first baseman responded with a two-run homer and an RBI double in his first two plate appearances.
Craig has recorded an RBI in each of his four games since returning May 1 from the 15-day disabled list. His three RBIs Sunday, a season high, give him seven in those four games.
Center fielder Jon Jay, meanwhile, moved to the No. 7 slot in the lineup and went 1-for-5. Jay entered the game with a Major League leading .405 batting average.
And his defense isn't too shabby, either.
"Jon Jay might just play himself into a gold glove if he keeps playing like that," said Sunday's winning pitcher Adam Wainwright. "He has amazing closing speed in the outfield, comes in on the ball well and goes back on the ball well. He's a great outfielder."
Berkman confident Pujols will break out in AL
HOUSTON -- First baseman Lance Berkman continues to work on getting healthy and back into the lineup. He sympathizes with the struggles of former Cardinal Albert Pujols, who entered Sunday's game hitting just .194 in his first season in the American League with the Los Angeles Angels.
However, Berkman said he anticipates Pujols to be among the most feared hitters in the American League before the year is out.
"It's a six-month season," he said. "I know that there are going to be some pitchers in the American League who are not going to want to see him. He'll do like he did last year. He got off to a real rough start here and he ended up hitting 37 home runs and driving in right at 100 and hitting right at .300. So I imagine that he's going to be right there."
Berkman said that changing leagues is a big adjustment as well.
"It continued my rough going from here to there," said Berkman, who went from Houston to the New York Yankees before returning to the NL with St. Louis.
"But really the biggest thing is the bullpens, learning the different relievers," he said. "The starting pitchers, you get a feel for them after your first at-bat. You get more than one crack at them. A lot of times they bring in a reliever and by the time you figure out some information, the at-bat is over with. And usually, you're out.
"I'm not really worried about Albert. I know it's a big story, but the back of the baseball card doesn't lie. He's going to be just fine."
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.