Edmonds' HR lifts Cards, evens series

Blast in 12th beats Astros, 6-4, forces a Game 7 tonight

`I wasn't trying to go deep'

October 21, 2004|By Paul Sullivan | Paul Sullivan,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

ST. LOUIS -- Knocked down by Houston closer Brad Lidge before striking out in the ninth inning last night, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds bounced back to knock off the Astros in another wild affair in the National League Championship Series.

Edmonds' two-run, walk-off home run in the 12th inning off Dan Miceli gave St. Louis a 6-4 win in Game 6 of the NLCS, tying the series and setting up a winner-take-all matchup tonight between the Cardinals' Jeff Suppan and the Astros' Roger Clemens.

"Every now and then you get a wake-up call," Edmonds said. "They sent a message back to us, and, hopefully, that was a wake-up call for me and everybody else. This is a hard-nosed game. I don't know what happened before, but obviously, that was a message back."

Edmonds decided to air-mail his message to Houston, taking an 0-1 pitch from Miceli and cranking it over the right-field fence, giving embattled reliever Julian Tavarez the victory and putting new life into the Cardinals in what is turning into a classic playoff series.

"I was just looking for a ball to get a good swing at," Edmonds said. "I wasn't trying to go deep. I was trying to hit the ball hard."

Said Cardinals reliever Cal Eldred: "This'll make an old man out of an old man."

Before Edmonds' heroics, the Astros made another ninth-inning comeback. Jeff Bagwell's two-out, run-scoring single off Jason Isringhausen tied the game, temporarily silencing the crowd of 52,144 at Busch Stadium.

Isringhausen had served up a three-run, walk-off home run to Jeff Kent in his second inning of work in Game 5, but he was called upon again in the eighth to protect a 4-3 lead. He succeeded in stranding Kent on second after his one-out double.

But Isringhausen plunked pinch hitter Morgan Ensberg in the side with two strikes to start the ninth. After a sacrifice bunt and a fly out, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa opted to intentionally walk Carlos Beltran, who was 10-for-20 in the series with four home runs.

In Game 5, La Russa had ordered Isringhausen to walk Lance Berkman intentionally with one out in the ninth to face Kent. Once again the strategy blew up in La Russa's face. Bagwell singled sharply to left on the first pitch to tie the game 4-4.

Lidge threw three hitless innings from the ninth through the 11th, but Houston manager Phil Garner didn't want to overdo it with his closer, bringing in Miceli to start the 12th. After a four-pitch walk to Albert Pujols and a pop out by Scott Rolen, Edmonds homered.

Garner defended the decision to insert Miceli, saying: "Got to get the guy back on the horse when he falls off."

The Cardinals had 15 hits, but they also stranded 10 runners to let the Astros hang around all day.

Garner's decision to use unheralded starter Pete Munro over Clemens on three days' rest didn't turn out as planned. Munro lasted only 2 1/3 innings, giving up a two-run blast to Pujols in the first and allowing four runs on eight hits that put the Astros in an early 4-2 hole.

Mike Lamb homered leading off the fourth to pull Houston to within a run.

Then the Cardinals ran themselves out of an inning in their half of the frame thanks to an unexpected carom off the wall down the left-field line on Rolen's double with Pujols on first. When the ball wound up between the left fielder and the shortstop, Pujols kept running.

Shortstop Jose Vizcaino, however, hustled into short left field, tracked the ball down and nailed Pujols at the plate, thanks in no small part to catcher Brad Ausmus' diving tag. Both bullpens did the job until Isringhausen blinked in the ninth, leading to Edmonds' homer three innings later.

"It was either play well or go home, and you have to live with that," Edmonds said. "If you're good enough to go on, you do. And if you don't you have to tip your hat, shake their hands or do whatever you do and move on, go home and relax and play another year."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Baseball playoffs

NL Championship Series, Game 7: Houston at St. Louis, 8:19 p.m., chs. 45, 5

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