Astros-Cardinals: Carpenter Nails Houston, As Redbirds Have a Holliday

Brian McDowellCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2009

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 9:  Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the MLB game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 9, 2009 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 2-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Chris Carpenter crafted an impressive complete-game win tonight at Busch Stadium, as the St. Louis Cardinals (58-49) soundly defeated the Houston Astros (51-53) 3-1.

Carpenter pitched nine innings, and, with the exception of a Carlos Lee home run, it was nearly a flawless performance. He didn't walk anyone, and, thanks to his grace under pressure, seven Astros were left stranded on base.

Astros' starter, the usually impressive Wandy Rodriguez, left the game in the fourth inning with a hamstring injury. He was then replaced by Jeff Fulchino, until the game was closed by Jose Valverde.

All of Houston's pitchers pitched well, but none of them could contain the red hot bats of new Redbirds, Matt Holliday and Julio Lugo.

Holliday, who is in the middle of what may be the most impressive month of offense that any baseball fan has witnessed in a long time, went 3-4, with two solo home runs. Lugo went 1-3, and got an RBI after hitting a sacrifice fly that brought Chris Carpenter home in the seventh inning.

Yadier Molina also had a nice night at the plate, going 3-4. Carpenter compounded his totally mastery of this game by getting a hit and scoring a run. Albert Pujols continued his post-All Star Game cold streak, going 0-4.

There is still much reason for optimism among Cardinals fans, even with today's roster news; "Crazy" Khalil Greene is back in St. Louis, and Mitchell Boggs has been sent down to AAA, which probably means that "Terrible" Todd Wellemeyer is probably going to be given a second chance.

Right now, though, the team's offensive lineup is so strong though that all of Tony LaRussa's misplaced trust might not mean all that much.

No matter how the Cubs game turns out, this victory temporarily cements St. Louis's spot at the top of the National League Central. The Cardinals go for the sweep of the Astros tomorrow, and then have a richly deserved day off before a quick swing through New York and Pittsburgh next week.

For the next couple of weeks, St. Louis will be playing relatively weak teams that aren't realistically contending for spots in the playoffs. I hope they can take advantage of this weak spot in their schedule; doing so would definitely improve their postseason prospects.