The Houston Astros cannot afford any mistakes over their final five games of the season.
They’ll try to remain near the top of the NL wild-card race when they meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the middle game of their series at Minute Maid Park.
“It’s a little desperate now—sure,” Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell said. “But it was desperate on the road, too. At least we’re home. The guys feel more comfortable here.”
Roy Oswalt fought through a nagging rib cage injury to become the NL’s first 19-game winner Monday, and Craig Biggio and Morgan Ensberg each had two-run doubles to lead the Astros to a 10-3 victory in the series opener. Carlos Beltran added a two-run triple, and Jason Lane hit a pinch-hit solo homer.
Houston has won four of five.
The Cardinals, who wrapped up the NL Central on Sept. 19, are simply trying to stay healthy and prepare for the playoffs. But they received a scare when Oswalt hit second baseman Tony Womack on the left hand with a pitch in the seventh inning.
Womack was taken to the hospital after the game, but X-rays were negative.
“It’s sore but there are no fractures,” Womack said. “I don’t expect to play tomorrow. I just need to be healthy for the playoffs. If that means taking a few days off, so be it.”
The Cardinals had won five straight before Monday, but manager Tony La Russa was only worried about Womack.
“There’s not anything else about this game that I even care about,” La Russa said. “Tony Womack is so much the concern right now.”