Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead two-run double in the fifth inning, and three relievers allowed two hits in the final three innings after a strong start from Adam Wainwright in a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.
“I think all of us wanted to go out and turn this season around a little bit,” Wainwright said. “We wanted to win for Josh, too.
“I think he was looking down and he was proud of us.”
It was the Cardinals’ first home game since Hancock’s fatal accident on Sunday. The team honored him with a video montage and put his initials and uniform number in a black circle against the bullpen wall not far from an identical remembrance of Darryl Kile, who died in 2002.
Before the game, about a dozen teammates gathered near the warning track in center field beneath the video board during the Hancock montage, and a sellout crowd observed a moment of silence.
The final score was Hancock’s uniform number without the dash.
“We won the game 3-2. Thirty-two,” Wainwright said. “That’s kind of cool.”
The Cardinals were outscored 36-7 during a five-game skid, including a sweep at Milwaukee earlier this week in which the defending World Series champions were outscored 23-3 and fell to last place in the NL Central.
“It’s got to start somewhere,” manager Tony La Russa said. “This is a start.”
Wainwright (2-2) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings in his strongest outing since winning at Houston on April 6 in his first major league start. In his previous three starts, Wainwright was 0-2, allowing 17 earned runs and 27 hits in 15 2-3 innings.
Pujols’ two-run double off Woody Williams (0-5) put the Cardinals ahead 3-2 in the fifth. Pujols is 18-for-44 (.409) with two homers and eight RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak and his big hit came one pitch after he fouled off a curve.
“I could have maybe tried a different pitch, but I’m not going to second guess myself,” Williams said. “I threw my best pitch, and you know, he’s a pretty good hitter.”
The Cardinals took the lead in the fifth, ending a 19-inning scoreless streak. Chris Duncan’s two-out RBI single cut the deficit to one and Pujols lined a curveball on a full count just inside the third-base line for a two-run double.
“He hung that breaking ball and I’m pretty sure he can tell you it was a mistake,” Pujols said. “I was looking for it.”
Ryan Franklin struck out three and allowed an infield hit in the seventh and Randy Flores allowed a hit and a walk while getting the first out in the eighth. Jason Isringhausen, the fourth St. Louis pitcher, got the last five outs for his seventh save.
It’s the first save longer than an inning for Isringhausen, who underwent hip surgery last September, since July 7. Isringhausen has 256 career saves, tied with former Cardinals closer Todd Worrell for 24th place on the career list.
“This is what we get paid to do,” Isringhausen said. “It’s our job to cover the rest of the game and we were able to do it.”
Williams moved up a day in the rotation to replace Chris Sampson, who was experiencing sinus problems. He allowed three runs and five hits in six innings and is 1-3 against his former team.
The Cardinals have been outscored 19-3 in the first inning and have scored first in only seven of their first 27 games. … Pujols is 4-for-7 with a homer against Williams. … Lee has 20 RBIs in his last 20 games. … Craig Biggio singled twice for his team-leading eighth multihit game and has 2,959 hits. … The Cardinals improved to 4-9 at home. … Matt Albers, who had been scheduled to start on Sunday, has been moved up one day to work Saturday’s game and Sampson will pitch on Sunday.