Sat, Oct 15, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Astros get runners home

LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES Roy Oswalt allowed the Cardinals only one run as Houston, who had been leaving runners stranded on base, found a way to score

AP , ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Starting pitcher Roy Oswalt of the Astros pitches against St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, on Thursday. Houston defeated St. Louis 4-1 to tie up the series 1-1.

PHOTO: AFP

Yes, it is possible to win on the road in the NL championship series. Roy Oswalt showed the way for Houston, silencing the St. Louis Cardinals and all their red-clad fans.

Oswalt pitched seven stellar innings, closer Brad Lidge finished up and the Astros beat the Cardinals 4-1 on Thursday night to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

Houston scrounged for a couple of runs off Mark Mulder -- one scoring on a passed ball, the other on Craig Biggio's groundout. The Astros added two more in the eighth off reliever Julian Tavares.

Division series hero Chris Burke came through again, scoring two runs and driving in another with a two-out single in the eighth -- ending Houston's 0-for-14 drought with runners in scoring position.

Lidge came on for a two-inning save, closing out the six-hitter with three strikeouts.

Oswalt allowed only five hits, struck out six and didn't let a runner past second base except for Albert Pujols, who led off the sixth with a 438-foot home run that cleared the Houston bullpen.

Otherwise, Oswalt made every big pitch he needed, improving his career postseason record to 3-0.

The Cardinals went 0-for-6 against the right-hander with runners in scoring position. Oswalt twice faced Jim Edmonds with two runners on -- and came out on top both times against the dangerous left-handed hitter.

In the fifth, Edmonds took a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch. Two innings later, the crowd of 52,358 -- nearly all of them adorned in red -- was in an uproar after the Cardinals put runners at first and second with only one out.

But Oswalt retired David Eckstein with a fly ball to center, then got Edmonds on a grounder to first -- the last of the starter's 108 pitches. Oswalt covered on the play, pumping his fist after he took the flip from Lance Berkman.

The Central Division rivals are meeting in the NLCS for the second year in a row, and their first eight games all went to the home team.

The 2004 series went the distance, with St. Louis advancing to the World Series by winning four games at Busch Stadium. The streak continued with the Cardinals winning 5-3 in Game 1 Wednesday.

Now, St. Louis has to win at least one game in Texas -- something it couldn't do last year -- to bring the series back to soon-to-be demolished Busch.

The next three games are in Houston, beginning with today's contest matching Roger Clemens of the Astros against St. Louis' Matt Morris.

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