10/16/2004 9:10 PM ET
Astros short hops
NLCS runs continue to score courtesy of long ball
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Finally, something that resembled a pitchers' duel.
The Astros won Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, 5-2, the first time the teams didn't combine for double digits in scoring. But the scoring continued to be tied to the long ball.
St. Louis and Houston have combined to score 34 runs this series, 23 of which have come via the long ball (68 percent). All seven of Houston's runs in Game 1 came on a home run and six of St. Louis' runs came on a homer in Game 2. In Game 3 on Saturday, both Cardinals runs and four of the five Astros runs came via the long ball.
A look at key statistics through Game 3 of the NLCS.
||New plan: Starter to Brad Lidge, skip middle relief
||Carlos Beltran cannot be stopped
|BA w/ RISP
||Improved in Game 3, going 2-for-5
||Five does the job when the Cards score two
||Game 3 was error-free for Astros
Who was hot?
||.400, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs
||Just sit back and enjoy it
||.385, 5 R, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs
||Both HRs have come right-handed
Who was not?
||.100, 1-for-10, 0 RBIs
||Broke an 0-for-7 slump in Game 3
||.167, 2-for-12, HR, 2 RBIs
||Two hits, one of them a HR
Behind the numbers
Roger Clemens' turning point came in the fourth inning. He needed 30 pitches to slog through the bottom of the Cardinals lineup, but along the way seemed to harness his split-fingered fastball and he rode that pitch the rest of the way.
|With seven innings, Roger Clemens jumped into a fifth-place tie on the all-time LCS innings list:||Pitcher
|John Smoltz||95 1/3|
|Greg Maddux||85 1/3|
|Dave Stewart||75 1/3|
|Catfish Hunter||69 1/3|
|Roger Clemens||69 1/3|
|Orel Hershiser||65 1/3|
|Stewart's 75 1/3 innings lead the ALCS. Smoltz's 95 1/3 innings lead the NLCS.|
Edgar Renteria struck out on a splitter for out No. 2 of the inning before Clemens got Mike Matheny to chase a breaking ball for the final out of the inning. Clemens then struck out one in the fifth inning and two apiece in the sixth and seventh, all on splitters.
Clemens started his 12th LCS game, fourth all-time behind Tom Glavine (15), Greg Maddux (14) and John Smoltz (13). With his seven innings pitched, he tied Catfish Hunter with 69 1/3 innings in the LCS, fifth all-time. And with his seven strikeouts on Saturday, Clemens jumped from fourth to second on the LCS strikeout list, passing Glavine (62) and Maddux (64). Smoltz is the all-time leader with 89 punchouts.
Beltran did it again. His eighth-inning home run was his seventh of the postseason and his fourth in as many games. He joined Jeffrey Leonard (San Francisco, 1987) as the only players ever to homer in four consecutive postseason contests.
Clemens made Astros manager Phil Garner look brilliant by getting through seven innings. That allowed Garner to call on closer Lidge for a two-inning save opportunity and bypass Houston's shaky middle relief.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa decided against starting outfielder Roger Cedeno in Game 3 despite Cedeno's surprising success against Clemens. In 23 career at-bats against The Rocket, Cedeno has a .435 average, six walks and six strikeouts. Cedeno pinch-hit in the top of the seventh and Clemens struck him out on three pitches. Strike three, Clemens' 116th pitch, was his last of the day.
Did not want to go there
Historically speaking, the Astros' Game 3 win was a big one. Since the seven-game format was introduced in 1985, only three teams have gone up 3-0 in an NLCS, and all three won the series: the 1995 Braves swept Cincinnati, 4-0; the 1998 Padres beat Atlanta, 4-2; and the 1999 Braves beat New York, 4-2. The Oakland A's are the only American League club to ever take a 3-0 lead, and they've done it twice, 1988 and 1990, sweeping the Red Sox in both series under current Cards manager La Russa.
In Games 1 and 2, the Cardinals outscored the Astros, 16-11, but scored 12 of those runs with two outs versus Houston's one. The Astros tripled that output in the first inning of Game 3, scoring three runs, all with two outs, to take a 3-1 lead.
"When we scored those three runs right there, we feel very comfortable. But you can't stop scoring against those guys. They can get back in the game quick, and they almost came back today."
-- Beltran, on jumping to the early lead
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.