The Cardinals' 7-4 win Tuesday
Left fielder Lance Berkman, a former Astros star who hit two home runs in the final game of the series the last time the Cardinals were in Houston, drilled another a two-run homer in the first inning, running his career total to 154 homers at Minute Maid Park.
First baseman Albert Pujols, white hot after an up-and-down first two months, homered for the fourth game in a row. His fifth homer in that span and 14th of the season was a monstrous shot to deep left center in the eighth inning.
Shortstop Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to 20 games, longest active streak in the league, with a two-out, run-scoring double in the ninth inning. It was the second straight game that Theriot had doubled in his final at-bat and marked the fifth time in the streak he had hit safely in his last trip to the plate.
Reliever Fernando Salas, one of the biggest surprises of the season, pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out spot in the eighth inning when the Cardinals led just 6-3. Salas, who has 11 saves in 12 tries, allowed a run in the ninth in a rare two-inning save, but the eighth-inning escape, said Berkman, "was the turning point, for sure."
But then there was a bit
of the unexpected. Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook, a .100 hitter with one run
batted in this season, drove in three runs with one swing. Third baseman Daniel Descalso was walked intentionally with two out to fill the bases for Westbrook
in the fourth. But
"That was not expected," said manager Tony La Russa.
Westbrook hadn't had a hit in nearly two months. "It was a good time to get another one," he said. The intentional walk, he said, "was a good play. I just happned to run into one."
NOTES AND QUOTES
The Cardinals, who have had an intimate knowledge of the disabled list this season, lost another player, RF Allen Craig, for an undetermined period of time. Chasing a foul fly by Houston SS Clint Barmes in the first inning, Craig suffered a bruised right knee when he banged into a metal fence in front of the box seats. Craig had three stitches and is listed as "day to day."
The victory was the Cardinals' fourth in a row, tying their season high. But their perch of 12 games above .500 is their season best, and they have the best record in baseball (37-25) with 100 games left.
RHP Fernando Salas posted the first two-inning save by a Cardinals pitcher in three years. He issued a walk to the first man he faced in the eighth after rookie reliever Eduardo Sanchez had passed two hitters in a row to start the inning. But then Salas pitched out of the jam with two strikeouts and a short flyball. "I told him, 'We'll see you next week at home,' " joked manager Tony La Russa, referring to the rest Salas will need. "That was beyond the call of duty," said La Russa. "You won't see him the rest of this series, that's for sure. He's got great guts."
The Cardinals' bullpen had some control issues but also got huge strikeouts. Besides Salas' two strikeouts in the eighth, reliever Jason Motte, after forcing in a run with a hit batsman in the sixth, struck out Houston CF Michael Bourn on a 97 mile an hour fastball with the bases loaded. Motte then got a forceout on the next play to maintain a two-run lead.
Cardinals—RHPs Adam Wainwright and Kyle McClellan and 3B David Freese—will
travel to Joplin, Mo., on Wednesday to represent the club at a press conference
with Governor Jay Nixon to announce a fundraising effort for the Missouri city
ravaged by a recent tornado. The Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals will play
a series in
BY THE NUMBERS: 9-for-17 - OF Lance Berkman's
performance through his first four games back at
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is a great place to hit, a great place to see the ball."
- Lance Berkman on his
LF Matt Holliday (strained left quadriceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 1.
RHP Kyle McClellan (left
hip flexor strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 31. He is
expected to return and start by the June 14-16 series against
C Gerald Laird (broken right index finger) went on the 15-day disabled list May 23. He will be out until July.
INF Nick Punto (right forearm flexor strain) went on the 15-day disabled list May 18.
3B David Freese (broken left hand) went on the 15-day disabled list May 2. He had surgery May 3, and he is expected to be out until mid- to late July.
RHP Bryan Augenstein (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list April 13. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 16.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.