HOUSTON -- Houston pitching had shackled the powerful St. Louis lineup for the past three games ... all but one player, that is.
Albert Pujols came into Game 5 batting .429 in the series. On Monday night, Pujols delivered the biggest blast of the NLCS for St. Louis, a three-run home run in the ninth inning with two outs off Astros closer Brad Lidge to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win and send the series back to St. Louis.
Behind the numbers
Nos. 1 and 2 hitters David Eckstein and Jim Edmonds got on base five times during the game and were 3-for-7. The 1-2 hitters had been 2-20 previously in the series. It paid off in the ninth, when Pujols hit his game-winning homer.
A look at key statistics through Game 5 of the NLCS. Team stats
|ERA||2.93 (14 runs in 43 IP)||Chris Carpenter pitched a solid seven innings, but in a series dominated by pitching, four runs were nearly too many. td>|
|BA||9-for-36, .250 (35-for-157, .223 series)||The Cardinals finally got the big hit they had been looking for the last four games.|
|Runs||5||The Cardinals' offense needs to come alive if they want to have a chance against Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens.|
|Errors||1||Hector Luna continues to be a liability on defense.|
|David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds||3-for-7, 4 runs, 0 left on base||Eckstein and Edmonds had been struggling and the Cardinals need them to get on base to start rallies.|
|Reggie Sanders||1-for-5, 2 strikeouts, 5 left on base (.200 this series)||The Cardinals would like to give Pujols protection in the lineup at the No. 4 spot, but Sanders has not been able to provide that. After a career-best NLDS, Sanders hasn't driven in a run since Game 1 of the NLCS.|
Pujols' ninth-inning blast silenced the sold-out crowd at Minute Maid Stadium.
In the second inning, Andy Pettitte hit a tapper back to first base with Jason Lane charging home from third base. First baseman Pujols fired home to catcher Yadier Molina, who made a 180-degree spin to his right to tag out Lane.
"When you play nine, every once in a while, you get a miracle. It's happened a few times for us this year and it happened again tonight."
-- manager Tony La Russa
Stephen A. Norris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.