Backed by a strong outing by starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, the Cardinals escaped with a 3-2 victory Thursday night against the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium.
After a fast start, which included two runs in the first inning, the Cardinals hitters looked dumbfounded at the plate until Albert Pujols' home run in the sixth inning.
That blast by Pujols proved to be the game winner, as Astros slugger Lance Berkman made it 3-2 with a home run in the ninth inning, but that was the end of scoring for the night.
Roy Oswalt, the Astros' starting pitcher, started out shaky before retiring 12 straight batters. This game was a good win for the Cardinals, as they now take a 2-1 series lead on the Astros going into the fourth and final game on Friday night.
Chris Duncan, in an effort to refute criticism, plated two on a two-out single in the first, to set the tone for the rest of the night.
Lohse pitched effectively all night, his only blemish a Carlos Lee home run in the top of the seventh, after which his night was complete.
Three relief pitchers came in after Lohse to pitch through the eighth inning, preserving the lead for the Cardinals. Chris Perez, the Cardinals' flamethrower, pitched 0.2 innings without giving up a hit to continue his scoreless start to a young career.
The only hiccup for the Cardinals' bullpen was the Berkman blast off of Ryan Franklin in the ninth.
This is perhaps just another example of why Chris Perez should be the closer and not Franklin. The latter of those two is used to pitching as a setup man, and admits he still thinks of his appearances in the ninth inning as being the seventh. The closer's mindset should be to finish the game, not be two innings away from it.
Overall, it was nice to see the Cardinals squeak out a win, especially with the recent success of the division-leading Chicago Cubs.