Cards drop 6-5 thriller in 13

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Houston rallied three times and finally pulled out the victory.

HOUSTON -- Eric Bruntlett had an RBI single with two outs in the 13th inning and the Houston Astros finally beat the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 on Friday night.

The Astros had already extended the game with homers in the ninth and 10th innings against closer Jason Isringhausen. They won it by pushing two runs across in the 13th against three pitchers.

St. Louis had taken a 5-4 lead when Jim Edmonds led off the 13th inning with his second homer of the game. It came off Chad Qualls (4-4), who finished the inning and ended up with a victory.

Morgan Ensberg, who homered in the ninth, led off the bottom of the 13th with a single off Julian Tavarez (2-3) but was retired at second on a call disputed by Astros manager Phil Garner. After Tavarez bobbled a bunt by pinch-hitter Raul Chavez, he still threw to second where umpire Angel Hernandez called Ensberg out, though a replay showed clearly that he was safe.

Jason Lane then singled and Jose Vizcaino was intentionally walked to load the bases. Ray King came on and hit Orlando Palmeiro with a pitch to force in the tying run. After Brad Ausmus flied out to short right field against Al Reyes, Bruntlett hit a full-count pitch to left, a sinking liner that John Rodriguez couldn't come up with despite a diving attempt.

Mark Mulder retired 20 of the last 21 batters he faced, but was denied his 16th victory after Isringhausen took over to start the ninth. Two pitches later, Ensberg hit a 1-0 pitch for his 35th homer to tie the game at 3-all.

Isringhausen, who had his fourth blown save, then struck out Lance Berkman and Jason Lane before an inning-ending comebacker.

The Cardinals regained the lead in the 10th when Albert Pujols had a leadoff double off Dan Wheeler before consecutive bunts, the second a squeeze by Rodriguez. Pujols was charging home when Rodriguez placed the bunt between the mound and third base.

Isringhausen again couldn't hold the lead, allowing Ausmus' second homer of the season in the 10th.

After skipping his last start because of a stiff neck, Mulder struck out eight and walked two. He didn't allow a runner after Berkman drew a two-out walk in the third.

Yadier Molina homered for the Cardinals (85-50), who still have the best record in the major leagues.

Houston remained a half-game behind Philadelphia, which beat Washington, in the wild-card standings. The Astros are 12 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals.

Molina hit a solo homer in the second. Edmonds' 23rd homer came after Pujols led off the sixth with a single, and put the Cardinals ahead 3-2. Pujols finished 3-for-6.

Mulder was supposed to start last Saturday at Washington, but his neck tightened up in the clubhouse the previous night. His start was then pushed back to Sunday, but the Cardinals decided to skip his turn rather than risk further injury.

Against the Astros, the rested Mulder was at his best.

The only trouble Mulder had was in the second when he walked Berkman to start the inning and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek bobbled a potential double play grounder for an error. Chris Burke then singled to load the bases before Adam Everett's RBI grounder and Ausmus' run-scoring single.

Ezequiel Astacio struck out six over 5 1/3 innings and allowed three runs and eight hits. The rookie right-hander has allowed a team-high 21 home runs.

Notes: St. Louis is 39-18 against the NL Central, winning 24 of the last 29 games against division foes. The Cardinals are 9-3 against Houston. ... Ensberg's homer produced his 95th RBI, matching Sean Berry's team record by a third baseman. ... Houston broadcaster Milo Hamilton turned 78 on Friday. Hamilton, who is in his 21st season as the primary play-by-play voice on Astros radio, has been broadcasting major league baseball since 1953.

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