Lohse sharp for six frames as Cards take series from Astros
HOUSTON -- In the eye of one beholder, St. Louis outfielder Ryan Ludwick, it was "a beautiful inning."
With St. Louis trailing, 3-0, Ludwick opened the seventh inning by getting hit by a pitch, and the Cardinals ended up scoring five runs on just two singles, combined with ample help from Houston, to overtake the Astros, 5-4, on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
"That was a crazy inning," said St. Louis shortstop Brendan Ryan, who struck the key blow with a two-out, two-run single up the middle.
Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez looked untouchable for the first six innings, giving up only two singles. He had retired 14 in a row entering the seventh.
"He was wearing us out all day long," manager Tony La Russa said.
But the Cardinals took advantage of two Houston errors, two hit batsmen and a wild pitch as they scored five unearned runs in the inning.
Rodriguez hit Ludwick with a fastball inside to start the bizarre frame.
"It's like getting a base on balls," Ludwick said.
Troy Glaus reached on an error by third baseman Ty Wigginton, and Yadier Molina singled to load the bases.
Brian Barton delivered the first St. Louis run with a sacrifice fly, as Glaus tagged and went to third. Rodriguez then hit pinch-hitter Cesar Izturis to reload the bases.
Aaron Miles struck out for the second out of the inning, and Rodriguez went 0-2 on Ryan. The next pitch was a curveball in the dirt to score Glaus with the second run. Ryan hit the following pitch up the middle to score two more runs for a 4-3 Cardinals lead.
"We were pretty fortunate," said Ryan, who started in place of Izturis and batted leadoff. "Wandy was throwing a great game, moving the ball inside and out, painting the inside corner. The last changeup he threw wasn't his best, and a ball found its way up the middle."
The Cardinals hadn't run out of luck yet.
Ryan hustled to second after the throw went home. Joe Mather hit an easy fly ball to right-center. Houston center fielder Michael Bourn and right fielder Hunter Pence pulled an Alphonse and Gaston, allowing the popup to fall, plating Ryan with the fifth run. Bourn was charged with an error.
"We both called it at the same time," Bourn said. "I'm the center fielder; I take blame for it. I should have taken charge of it, so it's my fault."
The Astros answered with a run in the bottom in the seventh off Ron Villone, but the St. Louis bullpen shut them down the rest of the way.
Russ Springer replaced Villone, gave up an immediate double to Brad Ausmus, then retired the next three hitters to preserve the one-run lead.
"Springer gives up a double, and they didn't score [another run]," La Russa said. "That was huge."
Christopher Perez and Randy Flores got the Cardinals through the eighth, and Ryan Franklin struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth for his eighth save.
Franklin retired 8-9-1 in the order, avoiding the meat of the Houston lineup.
"As soon as a guy gets on, you've got [Kazuo] Matsui, [Miguel] Tejada ... ," La Russa said.
Franklin said he felt a little sore warming up.
"When I get out there, the adrenaline starts going," Franklin said. "It's good to get the bottom of the order. The middle of their order [Tejada, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee] is the best in baseball."
Berkman did hurt St. Louis in the third inning when he hit a three-run homer off starter Kyle Lohse.
"He made one mistake," La Russa said of Lohse. "He got a changeup up to Berkman, and it was three runs. But he did a very good job. He hung in there and gave us enough to win."
Lohse (7-2) pitched six innings to win his fourth start in a row.
"I felt I was pitching pretty good and stayed under control," Lohse said. "After the home run, I got in a groove. I was basically out there with a fastball and slider."
Lohse pitched 3 2/3 innings without allowing another hit after the Berkman homer.