Cards fall to Astros, 4-1

Pre-Game

Ok, the hot stove league is already starting to warm up. The Yankees might sign Japanese strikeout guy Daizuke Matsuzaka. Elsewhere, two Blue Jays have taken free agency underwing like tiny puppies lost in a flood. Frank Menechino and Ken Huckaby. Hold on…that’s their agent on the other line. He’s working the phone book trying to find someone who will sign either of them. Menechino was decent last year, but as an aging outfielder, why would a club sign him?

I want to mention two of the keenest baseball sites I’ve ever come across. They are thecurseofa-rod.com and mlbeat.blogspot.com. We all know A-Rod sucks and that the Yankees are better off without him. That is your introduction to thecurseofa-rod.com. Taylor Upchurch runs mlbeat.blogspot.com and keeps a close eye not just on The Game, but on the people who comprise it. Like Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan, for instance.

Innings 1-3

I had taken some Benadryl and I was knocked out. But Burke was safe at third. Barely. Nunez waited a split second before applying the tag. That’s all Burke needed. Astros lead 1-0.

Inning 4

Larry Walker continues to struggle. Tony should think about getting So Taguchi some at-bats because Larry’s at-bats are becoming non-events. Sanders reaches base on an infield single despite a diving stop, glove, and throw by Ensberg. Grudzielanek has been quiet like Walker. With his beard he looks like Matt Morris. Oswalt is one strike away from being through four shutout. Grud grounds out. After four, it’s Stros 1, Cards 0.

Inning 5

Between innings, Clemens stars in an H-E-B supermarket commercial with his son. Apparently hi son has signed a baseball contract to play in the minors with some team “up north.” Yeah, the Astros drafted Koby Clemens in 2005. He is playing with the Greeneville, Tenn. ‘Stros of the Appalachain League.

Ausmus has doubled to lead off the fifth. Now Oswalt needs to bunt Ausmus over. There it is, one out but Ausmus is now on third. Biggio grounds out but knocks in Ausmus. Two nothing ‘Stros. Mulder has been pitching pretty well. The Cards need to show him some support. Willy T grounds out to Mulder to end the top of the fifth.

While Fox is busy doing an in-dugout interview with the Astros’ pitching coach, Yadier Molina doubles silently to right. Did that really happen or was it file footage? It’s hard to know. Mulder quickly in the hole 0-2, apparently not up there to bunt. Yeah he whiffs, what a wasted at-bat. Now David “This Kid” Eckstein is in the box. Oswalt starts him out with an 88-mph breaker. Fast ball up and a little in, even count. Eckstein hits .320 in the postseason. Eckstein fouls one off up and in. Another pitch up and in! Eckstein sings some chin music. Oswalt steps off to look Molina back at second. Ball three. The crowd gets loud. Fastball is close but up a bit on the diminutive Eckstein. Now it’s Jimmy time. Mound conference. Pass the spliff. This has been the Cards’ best inning, with the double and walk. But two outs…. Ball one a little low to Easy Edmonds. A 95-mph strike on the outside corner. Fastball inside just misses. Looked good, though. Fox has this from-the-ground cam. Pretty worthless. Oswalt throws one by Edmonds. Oswalt spits. Edmonds fouls one back. Oswalt puts strike three on the inside corner except Edmonds takes it as ball three. Now a ball inside and low is strike three. You never know. Edmonds should’ve been swinging.

Inning Six

Edmonds makes a difficult, diving catch on a sinking bomb hit by Ensberg. Gets dirty on the warning track clay. His elbow might be a little scraped but he saved a run. Chubby Berkman was lucky to make it back to first after stumbling on second. Lane yanks one foul. Lane has been Houston’s Larry Walker, playing right and having a very quiet series. Only three RBI this postseason. Lane sits down. Garner should keep him down because he’s not swinging very well.

In between time: yet another American car maker touting fuel efficiency in a commercial. Suddenly every car commercial talks about fuel efficiency. Suddenly everyone cares. When did that happen? When fuel went past $2.50/gallon? When are we going to start seeing commercials by bus companies? When gas gets to five?

Oswalt starts Pujols out with a breaker. Then he brings a fastball and Pujols hits the snot out of it. Two to one Astros. That went into Homer’s Landing, over the Houston bullpen. It’s like watching Bartolo Colon take a rip. Walker grounds out to first. Anesthesia, please! Oswalt throws one by Sanders. A shot of Pujols in the dugout. There is no way he’s only 26. Twenty-nine or thirty. He’s got a receding hairline. Sanders down on fastballs. Grudzielanek is hitting .182 this postseason. Is Luna on the roster? This was LaRussa’s downfall last postseason: when guys got cold he would not freshen things up. Up and in to Number Eight. A comebacker and Oswalt is through six.

Inning Seven

This H-E-B commercial features Clemens and Pettitte in football jerseys rushing a backyard barbecue. For the steaks on the grill, I guess. The ten o-clock news is airing a story about a guy who lived on bugs for a month. Damn, can’t wait until this game is over.

Now Everett. He’s been meager at the plate. Maybe time for Jose Vizcaino to step in. Now Ausmus. First pitch fastball inside. Second pitch fastball inside. A fastball catches the outside corner. Ausmus fouls away strike two. Ball three low. Strike three called. Preview for Fox’s new show: “Bones.” With the guy who was in “Buffy” and then “Angel.” It features a female forensic anthropoligist and then this guy, who is in the FBI presumably. Oswalt singles to right. Walker wanted to throw to first but Pujols wasn’t up for it. Biggio lines one into center, back-to-bak two-out singles. A chance for Willy T to drive one in. Some action in the Cards’ pen. A hook high and away evens the count at one. Willy grounds out 4-3.

Seventh inning stretch. A Nissan commercial. Taco Bell commercial. IBM commercial (help desk). Now a blimp shot of the stadium. Ah, St. Louis in the fall. Astros are 0-for-12 this series with runners in scoring position. They have eight hits this game, to the Cardinals’ four.

Nuñez leads off. Brad Lidge’s alma mater, Notre Dame, faces USC this weekend in football. First pitch strike on Nuñez. Oswalt gets him to ground out on a breaker. Molina gets a good swing but drives it foul down the right field line. Molina bombs one to left, Burke going back…back…back…he can’t find the ball, it’s down on the warning track, and bouncing over the wall into the Houston bullpen. A good left-fielder has that. Hey, if Houston’s going to sit someone, sit Lane in right, put Burke out there, let Berkman play left and play Lamb at first. Now John Rodriguez is pinch-hitting for Mulder. Nonetheless, it’s Molina’s second straight double. Oswalt just misses outside with a fastball. A careful breaking ball just misses inside. Qualls is warming up in the Houston pen. The Cards fans reach their feat. Ball four low. Get those thunder stix going, Cardinals fans! Pitching coach Hickey goes out to speak with Oswalt. The catcher heads out there, so do Berkman and Everett. The ump walks out to break it up. Gallo, the southpaw, is now getting warm in the pen with Qualls. Oswalt has thrown 102 pitches. Astros outfielders playing in. Eckstein takes a strike, one-and-one. Ball two inside. Eckstein gets a piece of a fastball, sending it foul. Oswalt spits. Another fastball fouled off, 94 m.p.h. Eckstein flies out to center. Now Edmonds. Oswalt will face him. He’s struck Edmonds out seventeen times. Edmonds grounds out to first. Houston still leads 2-1.

Inning Eight

Fox is showing another replay of the faux-strike three from last night’s Sox win over the Angels. Sprint commercial. State Farm Insurance commercial. McDonald’s commercial. Oral-B commercial. Now a promo for the hot new Fox show: “Prison Break.” If there’s one doomed show Fox has been promoting this fall, it’s “Prison Break.” Now a promo for the Pamela Anderson show, “Stacked.”

Tavarez starts the eighth on the mound for St. Louis. Lance Berkman greets him with a lead-off double. Ensberg grounds out to first, six-three, failing to get Berkman over to third. Strike one to Lane. Another six-three groundout, Berkman is ready to set-up camp on second. Burke is up. Ball one outside. Strike one. Tavarez throws one away, it kicks off of the backstop, Molina whips it down to third, without any real shot at getting Berkman. Burke lines a single to left and Berkman comes home. No one is hitting better for Houston right now than Burke. So, now the Astros have scored one run on a passed ball (in the second inning). Now a wild pitch leads to another Astros’ run. Two strikes on Everett. He grounds one foul to the third-base side. Now he hits one hard to left, Sanders is closing in on it, gets a glove on it, jumps, and the ball appears to knock him over. He lands with a thud and it’s a triple for Everett! Four to one Astros. Not pretty. Sanders landed right on his ass. The trainer is out there. Sanders took a strange trajectory to that ball and mis-timed his Dickens-esque jump. Sanders has left the field via the left-field bullpen door. Now playing left field for the Cardinals: So Taguchi! Either way, Everett hasn’t hit a ball that hard in weeks. It’s his first extra-base hit of the playoffs. Now Ausmus. Wheeler joins Lidge in the Houston bullpen. A liner to Grudzielanek ends the Houston top half. That was painful.

This George Hamilton Dell commercial is the worst commercial of the playoffs. Now a Charles Schwab commercial incorporating the “Waking Life” animation. Fun to look at.

It’s Brad Lidge starting the eighth for the Astros. Pujols leads off. Strike one slider. Pujols sends on to the warning track in center field. Out one. Eric Bruntlett is in at short. Walker is in the hole one-and-two. He’s hitting .067 this postseason. The Cards against Brad Lidge have only four hits, ever. Walker fans on a slider. Nasty. So fouls off two in a row, and now he’s in the hole. Another foul. Taguchi swings at a ball. That was over very fast.

Inning Nine

ExxonMobil commercial. Verizon commercial. Circuit City commercial. Bud Light commerical. Midas commercial.

Mabry takes over in right. Marquis is on the mound. He fans Bruntlett to start the ninth. Fox goes down to Kenny Albert on the field but Kenny has no news on Sanders. Thom Brenneman takes the time to mention that Kenny Albert has a busy schedule including work on NHL and NFL games (for Fox). Marquis runs the count to three and two on Biggio. Now he gets him to strikeout. On to Willy T. Tavares grounds out. Bottom of the ninth.

More Lidge. An Aleve commerical (pharm giant Bayer makes Aleve). A Visa commercial, with white Tom Brady and his white offensive line. An Fidelity Investments commercial/biography of Paul McCartney. A Sprint commercial talking about how they now have Nextel walkie-talkie phones. A Degree deodorant commercial (Degree is marketed by hygiene superpower Unilever).

Grudzielanek flies out. But Nuñez singles to left. He moves to second on fielder’s indifference. Except Molina strikes out swinging. Mabry is the Cardinals’ final hope. Mabry grounds out 6-3.

Astros win four to one, tie the series at one game apiece.

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