Cards top Astros in opener

Sanders sets tone with two-run homer off Pettitte

Carpenter pitches 8 to earn victory

Cardinals 5, Astros 3

October 13, 2005|By FRED MITCHELL

St. Louis -- The sequel to last year's National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros will be hard-pressed to rival that riveting seven-game drama.

But St. Louis fans must have enjoyed what they saw in Game 1 last night at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals rode the strong and steady arm of right-hander Chris Carpenter and the sizzling bat of Reggie Sanders for a 5-3 victory before a sellout crowd of 52,332.

Carpenter went eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits before giving way to Jason Isringhausen in the ninth for the save.

Isringhausen gave up an unearned run before retiring pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino with a man on base to end the game.

Game 2 is tonight, with Houston's Roy Oswalt facing Mark Mulder of the Cardinals.

The wild-card Astros were projected to be every bit the pitching equal of the Cardinals entering this series, but Sanders greeted Houston starter Andy Pettitte in the first inning with a towering 445-foot home run to left field with David Eckstein on base to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead.

"Everything is about timing," Sanders said. "There's no pressure. I'm just out there doing my thing. I'm glad things are paying off."

Pettitte entered last night's game with a 6-1 LCS record. But while running the bases in batting practice, Pettitte was struck on the inside of the right knee with a sharp grounder.

The Astros insisted Pettitte was fine, but he sure didn't look like a pitcher who was 17-9 with the NL's second-lowest ERA (2.39) during the regular season. Afterward, Houston manager Phil Garner conceded Pettitte was hurting.

"It swelled up on him and that was probably a little factor in the game," Garner said. "He was trying to pitch through it."

Sanders, a flop in five previous postseasons, has resembled Reggie Jackson this time around. The 37-year-old outfielder had a homer and 10 RBIs in a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres in the opening round, including a Division Series-record six RBIs in the opener.

"This is such a big magnifying glass," Sanders said. "Everything is heightened when you come through in key situations. There's been times when I was hot, but it's kind of been shoved under the table. Now, things are going in right direction for me."

Pettitte, meanwhile, struggled again in the second inning when Mark Grudzielanek and Abraham Nunez singled to put runners on the corners. Carpenter executed a perfect suicide squeeze to score Grudzielanek for a 3-0 lead.

The Cardinals padded their lead to 5-0 in the fifth inning.

Pettitte was lifted for pinch hitter Chris Burke in the seventh after being charged with five runs on eight hits.

"I was just terrible," Pettitte said. "I mean terrible. I made terrible pitches. I didn't make any quality pitches at all."

Carpenter had a shutout through 6 2/3 innings, but it was broken up by Burke's two-run homer. Still, the Cardinals' starter looked every bit like the ace of his team's rotation.

"I was in command of it all night," Carpenter said.

Fred Mitchell writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Postseason schedule

LEAGUE CHAMP. SERIES

Best of seven; *-if necessary)

American League

Los Angeles Angels vs. Chicago White Sox

(Series tied 1-1) Game 1 -- Los Angeles 3, Chicago 2 Last night -- Chicago 2, Los Angeles 1 Tomorrow -- Chi. (Garland 18-10) @ L.A., 8:28 p.m. Saturday -- Chi. (Garcia 14-8) @ L.A., 8:15 p.m. Sunday -- Chicago@Los Angeles, 8:15 p.m. *Tuesday -- L.A.@Chicago, 8:28 p.m. *Wednesday -- L.A.@Chicago, 8:28 p.m.

National League

Houston vs. St. Louis

(St. Louis leads series 1-0) Last night -- St. Louis 5, Houston 3 Today -- Houston (Oswalt 20-12) @ St. Louis (Mulder 16-8), 8:28 p.m. Saturday -- St. Louis@Houston, 4:30p.m. Sunday -- St. Louis@Houston, 4:45 p.m. *Monday -- St. Louis@Houston, 8:28 p.m. *Wednesday -- Hou.@St. Louis, 4:19 p.m. *Oct. 20 -- Houston@St. Louis, 8:28 p.m.

WORLD SERIES

(Best of seven; *-if necessary) Oct. 22 -- NL@AL, 8 p.m. Oct. 23 -- NL@AL, 8:10 p.m. Oct. 25 -- AL@NL, 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26 -- AL@NL, 8:25 p.m. *Oct. 27 -- AL@NL, 8:25 p.m. *Oct. 29 -- NL@AL, 7:55 p.m. *Oct. 30 -- NL@AL, 7:55 p.m.

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