Pujols, Cards win in 9th, deal blow to Astros playoff hopes

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Albert Pujols broke his bat on a 1-2 fastball
in on the hands from Brad Lidge. All that meant was that the
winning hit, which handed the Houston Astros an agonizing loss,
lacked a certain solid tone.

Even without good wood Pujols got the best of Lidge again
Tuesday night, this time hitting a two-run double with two outs in
the ninth inning that gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 6-5 victory.

"Everything went our way," Pujols said. "It's good that we're
catching those breaks. I wasn't trying to do too much, just put the
ball in play."

Preston Wilson homered for the Cardinals, who have won the first
two games of a three-game series against the third-place Astros,
knocking them seven games back in the NL Central. St. Louis has a
five-game lead over the Reds.

"Too much baseball left," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa
said. "It means we won the series."

Houston began the day 4˝ games behind wild-card leader San

The Cardinals got to Lidge, who blew his sixth save in 37
chances, for the third time this season. Lidge (1-5) had a blown
save and a loss against St. Louis in the last two games before the
All-Star break.

Lidge is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and four saves against the
Cardinals this season, allowing seven runs in seven innings
spanning six games.

"It seems like stuff like that has happened this year," Lidge
said. "I was able to get in there and broke his bat, but he was
able to put it in a place we couldn't get it."

Chris Burke's two-run homer in the sixth put the Astros ahead
5-4, and Mike Lamb also homered for Houston in a game that featured
five lead changes. The Astros used seven pitchers -- starter Andy
Pettitte left in the third inning with an elbow injury.

Pinch-hitter John Rodriguez singled off Lidge to start the ninth
and advanced on pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino's sacrifice. Wilson
struck out and Scott Spiezio was hit by a pitch before Pujols
doubled down the left-field line to score both runners without a

The ball got away from left fielder Jason Lane in the corner.

Last October, with the Astros only one out from their first trip
to the World Series, Pujols hit a mammoth, stunning homer off Lidge
to stave off elimination for the Cardinals and send the NL
championship series back to St. Louis. Houston recovered and
clinched the pennant in Game 6.

Pujols could not explain his success against Lidge.

"He's one of the best guys in the league and he's got good
stuff," Pujols said. "I'd take him on my team anytime."

Braden Looper (9-1) gave up one hit and one intentional walk
with two strikeouts in two innings.

Lamb's first-inning homer ended a 20-inning scoreless slump for

Pettitte lasted 2 2/3 innings and allowed a two-run homer to
Wilson, released by the Astros last month, before leaving with a
flexor muscle strain. He had been pushed back a day due to a minor
ankle sprain and fatigue.

Burke started in place of slumping Craig Biggio, who is 0-for-20
and will be rested again on Wednesday by manager Phil Garner.
Burke's ninth homer, off Jeff Weaver, reached the third of four
decks above the left-field wall and came after Luke Scott walked to
start the sixth.

Weaver gave up five runs and five hits in five-plus innings with
three strikeouts and three walks. He has given up 14 homers in 12
starts with the Cardinals, and 32 in 28 starts overall.

Wilson, let go by the Astros because of a lack of power, hit his
sixth homer in 21 games and 15th overall to put the Cardinals ahead
2-1 in the third. Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro's two-run single in
the fourth put the Astros back on top before Yadier Molina's RBI
single in the fourth and Juan Encarnacion's run-scoring single in
the fifth gave St. Louis a 4-3 lead.

Game notes
Wilson is 4-for-11 with two homers against Pettitte. ...
Before the game, a ceremony was held for Cardinals Care, the team's
charitable arm, which passed the $10 million mark in funds donated
to the community since 1997. ... Houston slugger Lance Berkman is
0-for-8 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series
and hasn't gotten the ball out of the infield, although he was
intentionally walked with a runner on second and two outs in the
ninth. ... Scott Rolen was ejected for arguing a called third
strike in the fifth. ... Lamb also doubled in the third and is
13-for-31 with two homers and four RBI against St. Louis pitching.