If someone would have told me the Cardinals would score two runs in the first inning and pack up the bats for the night I probably would have stayed home.
Fortunately, starting pitcher Brad Penny was brilliant and held the Astros to one unearned run on three hits scattered over seven innings. He struck out four and lowered his ERA to a miniscule 0.64 after two games. Penny collected his first Cardinals win in the 2-1 squeaker.
The Redbirds looked like they were going to thrash Houston starter Brett Myers in the first. They got a leadoff walk from Skip Schumaker followed by a smoked single off the bat of Ryan Ludwick. Albert Pujols singled home Schumaker and Matt Holliday ripped a grounder to shortstop for a gift wrapped double play. But another hard hit ball hit by Colby Rasmus to short was booted for an error that allowed a second run to score. Felip Lopez then singled and Yadier Molina hit a deep fly ball to right center that would have cleared the bases -- had Houston centerfielder Michael Bourne not made a fantastic catch.
First baseman Albert Pujols catches a throw from Brendan Ryan for the third out in the seventh out just before Houston second baseman Kaz Matsui reaches the base. The Astrols had the bases loaded with a 2-1 lead. AP photo.
After all of that, the Cardinals sent seven men to the plate, collected three hits and a walk while scoring two runs and they looked like they were well on their way. But Myers retired 13 in a row after allowing Schumaker to walk for a second time in the second and the Birds only managed two more hits for the game.
Penny allowed his lone run in the first when Bourne singled on a bloop to left that Matt Holliday should have caught. Bourne moved to second when Molina tried to pick him off and threw the ball away then to third on a ground ball before scoring on a sacrifice fly.
Kyle McClellan allowed a hit on the first pitch he threw in the eighth inning, recorded an out on a sacrifice and another on a lineout before walking a runner to make if first and third with two outs. Dennys Reyes came into the game and walked the first man he faced before getting Kaz Matsui to ground out with the bases loaded.
Ryan Franklin mercifully recorded a one, two, three ninth inning.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Penny
Play of the Game:Brendan Ryan had to circle around the baserunner with the sacks jammed and two out in the seventh inning, but made a strong throw to peg the runner at first just in time to allow the Birds to cling to a one-run lead.
Lowlight:The Cardinals sacrificed with Ryan in the bottom of the seventh with two on and no out. Nick Stavinoha came in to pinch hit for Penny -- who was pitching brilliantly and who had thrown only 89 pitches -- with an easy chance to pad the lead with a sacrifice fly... And he struck out.