Astro-nomical Season Ends in NLCS

The Houston Astros fell short in their attempt to make it to their first World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Astros 5-2 at Busch Stadium in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Houston could not muster a hit from the fifth inning on, and only got one runner on base in that time. The team led 2-1 going into the sixth inning.

Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan retired the last nine Astros he faced, but was lifted for pinch hitter Roger Cedeno to lead off the Cards' sixth. Cedeno singled to right off of Astros' starter Roger Clemens, just the fourth hit off the six-time Cy Young winner at that point. Edgar Renteria then sacrificed Cedeno to second base. Larry Walker then slowly rolled a ball down the first base line. He was out at first, but Cedeno again advanced a base.

Albert Pujols continued his amazing hitting in the playoffs with a double down the left field line, tying the game a 2-2. The next batter, Scott Rolen, took Clemens deep and out to left field. Rolen's third homerun of the championship series gave St. Louis a 4-2 lead.

A Walker single in the eighth inning scored pinch hitter Marlon Anderson, extending the Cardinals lead to 5-2.

Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen retired the final three batters to end the game.

The Astros took a very early lead when Craig Biggio hit the 43rd lead-off homerun of his career. Biggio was batting just .149 and had not driven in a single run in the NLCS coming into tonight. But he took a 1-2 pitch from Suppan down the left field line and just inside the pole for the game's first run. It was also the first lead-off homerun in postseason baseball history.

Houston's second score came with one out in the top of the third, when superstar Carlos Beltran was walked by Suppan. He proceeded to steal second base. With one out, Bagwell skied a ball to center, where Jim Edmonds made the catch. Beltran tagged up and tried for third base, and Edmonds's throw was errant and ended up in the Astros' dugout. Beltran trotted home to give Houston a 2-0 lead.

Edmonds was given an error on the play, the first by the Cardinals in this postseason. It was Edmonds in the second inning who kept Houston from scoring with an amazing catch in left-center off the bat of Brad Ausmus with two runners on base.

St. Louis got their first hit and run off of Clemens in the third inning. Tony Womack, suffering from back spasms that put his availability in doubt for the game, doubled to lead off the inning. After Mike Matheny moved the runner to third, Suppan executed a suicide squeeze bunt, scoring Womack and cutting the Houston lead to 2-1.

Houston has now gone 44 years without making it to the World Series. This season was the farthest the team had ever gone in the postseason. The division series against the Atlanta Braves was their first postseason series win.


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