Cardinals 6, Astros 5

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Albert Pujols broke his bat on a 1-2 fastball in on the hands from Brad Lidge. All that meant was that the winning hit, which handed the Houston Astros an agonizing loss, lacked a certain solid tone.

Even without good wood Pujols got the best of Lidge again Tuesday night, this time hitting a two-run double with two outs in the ninth inning that gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 6-5 victory.

“Everything went our way,” Pujols said. “It’s good that we’re catching those breaks. I wasn’t trying to do too much, just put the ball in play.”

Preston Wilson homered for the Cardinals, who have won the first two games of a three-game series against the third-place Astros, knocking them seven games back in the NL Central. St. Louis has a five-game lead over the Reds.

“Too much baseball left,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “It means we won the series.”

Houston began the day 4 1/2 games behind wild-card leader San Diego.

The Cardinals got to Lidge, who blew his sixth save in 37 chances, for the third time this season. Lidge (1-5) had a blown save and a loss against St. Louis in the last two games before the All-Star break.

Lidge is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and four saves against the Cardinals this season, allowing seven runs in seven innings spanning six games.

“It seems like stuff like that has happened this year,” Lidge said. “I was able to get in there and broke his bat, but he was able to put it in a place we couldn’t get it.”

Chris Burke’s two-run homer in the sixth put the Astros ahead 5-4, and Mike Lamb also homered for Houston in a game that featured five lead changes. The Astros used seven pitchers—starter Andy Pettitte left in the third inning with an elbow injury.

Pinch-hitter John Rodriguez singled off Lidge to start the ninth and advanced on pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino’s sacrifice. Wilson struck out and Scott Spiezio was hit by a pitch before Pujols doubled down the left-field line to score both runners without a play.

The ball got away from left fielder Jason Lane in the corner.

Last October, with the Astros only one out from their first trip to the World Series, Pujols hit a mammoth, stunning homer off Lidge to stave off elimination for the Cardinals and send the NL championship series back to St. Louis. Houston recovered and clinched the pennant in Game 6.

Pujols could not explain his success against Lidge.

“He’s one of the best guys in the league and he’s got good stuff,” Pujols said. “I’d take him on my team anytime.”

Braden Looper (9-1) gave up one hit and one intentional walk with two strikeouts in two innings.

Lamb’s first-inning homer ended a 20-inning scoreless slump for Houston.

Pettitte lasted 2 2-3 innings and allowed a two-run homer to Wilson, released by the Astros last month, before leaving with a flexor muscle strain. He had been pushed back a day due to a minor ankle sprain and fatigue.

Burke started in place of slumping Craig Biggio, who is 0-for-20 and will be rested again on Wednesday by manager Phil Garner. Burke’s ninth homer, off Jeff Weaver, reached the third of four decks above the left-field wall and came after Luke Scott walked to start the sixth.

Weaver gave up five runs and five hits in five-plus innings with three strikeouts and three walks. He has given up 14 homers in 12 starts with the Cardinals, and 32 in 28 starts overall.

Wilson, let go by the Astros because of a lack of power, hit his sixth homer in 21 games and 15th overall to put the Cardinals ahead 2-1 in the third. Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro’s two-run single in the fourth put the Astros back on top before Yadier Molina’s RBI single in the fourth and Juan Encarnacion’s run-scoring single in the fifth gave St. Louis a 4-3 lead.

Notes

Wilson is 4-for-11 with two homers against Pettitte. … Before the game, a ceremony was held for Cardinals Care, the team’s charitable arm, which passed the $10 million mark in funds donated to the community since 1997. … Houston slugger Lance Berkman is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series and hasn’t gotten the ball out of the infield, although he was intentionally walked with a runner on second and two outs in the ninth. … Scott Rolen was ejected for arguing a called third strike in the fifth. … Lamb also doubled in the third and is 13-for-31 with two homers and four RBIs against St. Louis pitching.

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