St. Louis (17-10) at Houston (17-9)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Wed May 3, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

In his last at-bat in Houston, Albert Pujols silenced a playoff crowd of 43,000 with a prodigious home run. The Astros, though, ended up getting the last laugh.

Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals travel to Minute Maid Park to take on the Astros in the start of a two-game series on Wednesday, the first meeting between the teams since Houston won the NL championship series last season.

On Oct. 17, Pujols hit a titanic three-run homer with two out in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 off closer Brad Lidge, sending the Cardinals to a 5-4 win and back home trailing 3-2 in the NLCS.

“I just couldn’t believe I did it,” the reigning NL MVP said of his homer over the train tracks high above the left-field wall. “Couldn’t be better than this.”

The series shifted to St. Louis where two nights later Roy Oswalt helped the Astros clinch the first pennant in their 39-year history with a 6-1 victory.

Oswalt (4-1, 2.76 ERA) takes the mound Wednesday looking to rebound from his first loss of 2006. On Friday, the right-hander allowed three runs and eight hits with three walks in six innings of a 5-4 defeat at Cincinnati, his first loss to the Reds in 20 appearances.

Oswalt is 5-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 starts against St. Louis.

He will be opposed by the struggling Jason Marquis (3-2, 5.04), who will try to avoid his third straight loss. The right-hander started the season by winning his first three starts, allowing just six runs in 19 1-3 innings, but has given up 14 runs—11 earned—in 11 innings in dropping his last two outings.

Marquis had his shortest and worst outing of 2006 on Friday when he surrendered a season-high seven runs, eight hits and four walks over five innings in an 8-3 home loss to Washington.

“I put my team in a hole early and couldn’t get out of it,” Marquis said. “I just didn’t do my job.”

Marquis went 4-0 with a 3.22 ERA in six appearances last year versus the Astros, and is 5-2 with a 4.82 ERA lifetime against them.

The Cardinals were 11-5 against the Astros in the 2005 regular season, including a 5-3 mark in Houston.

St. Louis (17-10) is trying to avoid tying a season high with its third straight loss after being swept in a two-game series at Cincinnati.

Playing without Pujols and third baseman Scott Rolen, St. Louis lost 3-2 to the Reds on Tuesday. Pujols, who leads the majors with 14 homers, was given the day off to rest a sore back while Rolen missed his eighth straight game with a viral infection.

Houston (17-9) earned a split of its two-game set against Milwaukee with an 8-5 win Tuesday to match the best start in club history. The Astros also started the 1980 season 17-9.

Rookie Fernando Nieve retired 14 in a row at one point en route to his first major league win, and Adam Everett had two hits and tied a season high with four RBIs for Houston.

Eight of Everett’s 17 RBIs this season have come in two games against Milwaukee. He has nine in 22 games against other teams.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Marquis Cin vs. R. Oswalt Col
14-16 Record 15-8
6.02 ERA 2.98
96 K 166
75 BB 38
1.52 WHIP 1.17