10/13/2004 9:24 PM ET
Astros short hops
Offense is there, but bullpen yields too much
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Considering the state of their pitching staff, the Astros know they need to score some runs to win this National League Championship Series.
They scored seven in Game 1, which was good. The Cardinals scored 10, which was not good.
The 17 combined runs were the most in an NLCS game since Game 2 of the 1993 matchup between the Braves and Phillies, a 14-3 Braves win. Houston tied a club postseason mark with four home runs in the game, including one by Carlos Beltran, who already has five homers this postseason.
For Houston, it was nothing new. The team scored 36 runs on 58 hits in the National League Division Series against the Braves, NLDS records in both categories.
A look at key statistics through Game 1 of the NLCS.
||Houston, your bullpen has a problem
||Four homers usually gets the job done
|BA w/ RISP
||Few chances, no results
||Team has been scoring at a record pace
||Defense was sloppy all night
Who was hot?
||.400, 2-for-5, HR, 2 RBIs
||This free agent is about to get very rich
||.400, 2-for-5, R, 2B
||Answering postseason critics with his bat
Who was not?
||0-1, 1 IP, 5H, 5 ER
||Also cost Houston Game 3 of NLDS
Behind the numbers
Jeff Bagwell did not commit an error, but his bum throwing shoulder may have cost the Astros the ballgame. With two on and one out in the sixth, Bagwell anticipated a Mike Matheny bunt and drifted toward the plate. But when the bunt rolled toward the third-base side of the mound, Bagwell made way for catcher Brad Ausmus, even though Bagwell was closer to the ball and may have had a play at third had he been able to throw.
Then, when pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno hit a slow roller up the first-base line, Bagwell was forced to simply tag him out and concede the run, even though there was a possible play at the plate. The Cardinals went on to rally for six runs in the inning.
The Cardinals were poised to go ahead in the fifth, with two on and one out against a fading Brandon Backe. But Backe induced a hard grounder to third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who backhanded it and initiated a double play.
Down one game to none with Pete Munro set to pitch Game 2 against Cardinals postseason veteran Matt Morris. Astros manager Phil Garner had few other choices.
Jeff Kent has been described as the Astros' "slumping second baseman" in this postseason, but he has made the most of his offense. He was 1-for-4 on Wednesday, but his hit was a two-run homer that gave the Astros a 4-2 lead. Kent is hitting .231 (6-for-26) in six postseason games this year, but four of those hits are for extra bases, and he has scored four runs and driven in five.
Working the count
After the Cardinals tied it in the bottom of the fifth, the Astros could have shifted momentum back in their direction by scoring in the sixth. But facing a tiring Woody Williams, Bagwell and Kent missed opportunities to get on base. Bagwell was ahead in the count, 3-1, but eventually was called out on strikes. After Lance Berkman grounded out, Kent was ahead, 3-0, but also struck out looking.
"If we win the game and they score five runs, you've done your job, to tell you the truth. Not to say that it's impossible to get them out, but you've got one good hitter after another. I consider myself a tough pitcher, but I caught some unlucky breaks. Broken-bat singles and look what happened."
-- Backe, on facing the Cardinals
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.