Cardinals power too much for Astros

By Ben Walker

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman is certain the Houston Astros are going to score plenty in the NL championship series. Stopping the St. Louis Cardinals, now that's trouble.

It sure was Wednesday night.

In a matchup that promised a lot of hitting, Larry Walker and the Cardinals delivered. They whacked balls all over Busch Stadium, overcoming four Houston home runs to beat up the Astros 10-7 in Game 1.


"You don't have to live with the long ball," Cardinals star Albert Pujols said.

Pujols did hit a home run, while slumping Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen contributed and winning pitcher Woody Williams added a double. And it was a significant win: The last 11 teams to take the opener of the NLCS have reached the World Series.

The Astros won the home-run derby, with Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Kent and Mike Lamb connecting to account for all of Houston's runs.

"No disrespect to their pitching staff, but we haven't had a problem scoring runs the entire postseason," Berkman said. "Eventually, we're going to have to win a 3-2 or a 4-1 ballgame if we're going to have a legitimate chance of doing anything in the postseason. But as far as we swung the bats, I've got no complaints."

Beltran's fifth homer of the postseason put Houston up 2-0 in the first inning. Not that the top-hitting team in the league was worried.

"We hadn't even come to bat yet," Walker said. "Right away you're thinking, 'OK, they have two runs, but let's get realistic, we haven't even made one of our 27 outs yet."'

He was right. After Tony Womack lined out in the bottom half, Walker tripled on a ball that Berkman misplayed in right field and Pujols hit a tying shot into the Cardinals' bullpen.

In an October when the ball is flying -- 58 homers in 19 playoff games overall -- Walker finished a home run shy of becoming the first player in postseason history to hit for the cycle.


Given a chance to do it, Walker struck out in the eighth inning.

"That's all I needed, just a home run? I think you could tell from my swings I was hacking at it pretty good," he said. "I knew what was at stake. I took a shot at it. I wasn't trying to hit a line drive."

No one thought pitchers would rule in this series, and it was an accurate prediction. Edmonds' three-run double with two outs capped a six-run sixth inning that broke the game open and put St. Louis ahead 10-4.

"We got some huge hits that fell in for us," Walker said. "A string of hits is just as good as hitting the ball out of the ballpark."

Unheralded Pete Munro gets his chance to try to slow down the team that led the majors with 105 victories. A guy who began the season in the minors with Minnesota, Munro will start Game 2 for Houston against 15-game winner Matt Morris tonight.

For sure, Astros manager Phil Garner will find himself watching The Weather Channel. The forecast is for showers, and the wild-card Astros would certainly welcome it.

A rainout would allow them to bring back ace Roger Clemens in Game 2 and then use 20-game winner Roy Oswalt back home in Game 3.

Williams lasted six innings, adding to the victory he earned in Game 1 of the first round against Los Angeles. Jason Isringhausen got the final out for a save.


Chad Qualls wound up as the losing pitcher, in relief of Brandon Backe.

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