10/15/2004 2:24 AM ET
Astros short hops
Club struggling to keep up with Cards in homer contest
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Astros want no part of a home run-hitting contest against the St. Louis Cardinals.
But that is what they have engaged in during Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship Series. The Astros hit four home runs in a Game 1 loss and added two more in Game 2 on Thursday, only to lose a 6-4 decision to a Cardinals lineup that combined for four homers.
Until Lance Berkman hit an RBI single for a 3-0 Astros lead in the fifth inning of Game 2, all 11 Astros runs had scored on home runs -- six of them.
If that's how they are going to score, the Astros may have a tough time keeping up. The Cardinals ranked third in the National League with 214 homers during the regular season while Houston, playing home games in cozy Minute Maid Park, ranked seventh with 187.
The teams' six combined homers on Thursday tied an NLCS record for a nine-inning game. It had been set three other times: the Phillies and Braves combined to hit six in the 1993 NLCS (Game 2), the Cardinals and Giants in the 2002 NLCS (Game 1) and the Marlins and Cubs in the 2003 NLCS (Game 2). The Astros have now hit 17 home runs so far this postseason in only seven games (almost two and a half per contest).
A look at key statistics through Game 2 of the NLCS.
||Houston relievers have a 12.79 ERA
||Too reliant on the long ball
|BA w/ RISP
||0-for-2 in Game 1, 2-for-14 in Game 2
||Pitching needs to chip in, too
||Not bad considering the sloppy conditions
Who was hot?
||.400, 1-for-2, 3 BB in Game 2
||Three walks; starting to get the Bonds treatment
||.400, 4-for-8 in NLCS
||Was quiet in the Division Series, now heating up
Who was not?
||.000, 0-for-6, 3 BB
||Needs to be a threat behind Beltran
Behind the numbers
The Astros have been smart baserunners throughout this postseason, but they ran out of an opportunity on Thursday. With two on and one out in the third inning, Jeff Kent was out on a called strike three. Bagwell had broken for second on the full-count pitch but Beltran, at second base, stood still. Bagwell was caught in no-man's land and was out to end the inning.
Starter Pete Munro was in and out of trouble all night, and he was in it again in the fourth inning. The Cardinals had runners at second and third with one out and dangerous shortstop Edgar Renteria up. But Rentera hit a line drive right at second baseman Kent before Munro induced a Reggie Sanders groundout to escape damage.
Astros manager Phil Garner turned to reliever Chad Harville in another tough situation. With a man on and Houston clinging to a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, Harville came on and surrendered a two-run homer to Scott Rolen. In a pair of 1/3-inning stints, Harville has been tagged for a run each time.
St. Louis has taken a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series. Only two teams in NLCS history have ever come back from a 2-0 deficit: the 1984 Padres (trailed 0-2 to the Cubs, won 3-2) and the 1985 Cardinals (trailed 0-2 to the Dodgers and won 4-2).
Beltran and Albert Pujols have homered in each of their last three games, becoming the 16th and 17th players in postseason history to go deep in three consecutive games. They are one shy of tying the Giants' Jeffrey Leonard's playoff record of four consecutive games with a home run, set in 1987.
"It's not something you can work on. You just gotta have it."
-- Brad Ausmus, on getting some clutch hits
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.