Houston at St. Louis

Houston «0001320017121
St. Louis0011400006101

Astros keep wild-card lead with win over Cardinals

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports

ST. LOUIS -- Rallying against 21-game winner Chris Carpenter, the Houston Astros edged closer to their second straight NL wild-card berth.

Morgan Ensberg had a tiebreaking double in the ninth inning, his fourth hit of the game, and the Houston Astros beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 Wednesday night to maintain a 2½-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race.

"I feel like nothing has changed," said Ensberg, who reached 100 RBI for the first time in his major league career. "We need to win tomorrow and keep on winning. I don't look at it that we somehow did a great thing because of the win. It was necessary for us."

With the score 6-6, Willy Taveras led off the ninth with his major league-leading 69th infield hit and scored without a play on Ensberg's double into the left-field corner off Jason Isringhausen (1-2).

Houston swept a two-game series against the NL Central champions, finishing the season 5-11 against St. Louis, and will close the regular season with a four-game series at home against the Cubs that starts Thursday. The Astros were 6-3 on their final trip of the season.

"We've still got work to do," manager Phil Garner said. "Tomorrow is our biggest game of the year. Then, the next day will probably be even bigger."

Lance Berkman and Mike Lamb homered in consecutive at-bats off Carpenter as the Astros improved to 87-71, a season-best 16 games above .500. Chad Qualls (6-4) worked a perfect eighth, and Brad Lidge finished for his 40th save in 43 chances.

Philadelphia (85-74) routed the New York Mets 16-6 and is off Thursday. The Phillies finish with three games at Washington.

Reggie Sanders hit his first home runs since early July, connecting on consecutive at-bats for the Cardinals, who got another spotty outing from Carpenter. The Cardinals are 3-8 since clinching the division and must sweep a season-ending series at home against the Reds to give the franchise consecutive 100-win seasons for the second time, the first since 1942-44.

Sanders' progress was about the only positive for the Cardinals, who have lost three straight at home. He returned to the lineup Sept. 12 after missing 54 games with a broken leg, and has five RBI in his last three games.

"That's two huge hits," manager Tony La Russa said. "That's a good sign for us."

Carpenter has failed in four attempts at getting his 22nd win while reaching a career-high 241 2/3 innings. Carpenter was shaky from the start, giving up a line-drive single to Craig Biggio on his first pitch. In all, he allowed six runs -- five earned - and nine hits in six innings.

After his last start, Carpenter said it had been tough maintaining his focus after the Cardinals clinched the NL Central on Sept. 15.

"I'm confident in my stuff, I was confident in my delivery, I was confident in the pitches I made, it was just one of those nights," Carpenter said. "I think guys are eager and ready to get going, and I'm one of them."

Carpenter is 0-1 with a 9.14 ERA since throwing seven scoreless innings against the Mets on Sept. 8, hiking his overall ERA from 2.21 to 2.83. Against the Astros he was better with the bat, hitting his first two career doubles and scoring twice.

"It was a strange night," Carpenter said. "I put good swings on two balls and hit them hard. It was nice, but it would have been nice to win."

Houston took a 4-2 lead against Carpenter in the fifth on consecutive home runs by Berkman and Lamb, the first leaving the frustrated pitcher barking into his glove at himself. But aside from the long balls, the Astros agreed with the Cardinals' assessment that they won largely with small ball.

"It's probably a deceiving line," Ensberg said. "We ended up basically bleeding him to death."

A four-run fifth highlighted by Sanders' second homer and 20th overall, a two-run shot off Scott Strickland, put the Cardinals ahead 6-4. Carpenter's second double of the game off Houston starter Brandon Backe started a rally that included an RBI single by Jim Edmonds and a sacrifice fly by Larry Walker.

Carpenter, who won 13 straight games from June 14-Sept. 8, couldn't hold a lead for the second straight outing, surrendering a sacrifice fly to Biggio and a tying single by Taveras in the sixth.


  • Carpenter finished 12-1 with a 2.75 ERA against the NL Central.
  • A crowd of 40,616 was the Cardinals' 39th straight of 40,000 or more and the final weekend, a three-game series against the Reds, is a sellout.
  • Sanders has 26 multihomer games, two this year.
  • Carpenter was a career .067 hitter and was batting .040 this year (3-for-75) before doubling and scoring in both of his at-bats.
  • The Astros finished 115-145 at Busch Stadium, which is being demolished after the season.
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Abraham Nunez fails to handle a hit in the ninth by Willy Taveras, who scores the winning run. (AP)
Abraham Nunez fails to handle a hit in the ninth by Willy Taveras, who scores the winning run. (AP)

Players of the Game

M. Ensberg
AB 5
R 2
H 4
HR 0
St. Louis

R. Sanders
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 2

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Houston Astros
Craig Biggio, 2B4011010 .264
Willy Taveras, CF5121001 .290
Morgan Ensberg, 3B5241001 .287
Lance Berkman, LF-1B5112012 .297
Mike Lamb, 1B5111025 .232
    Brad Lidge, P0000000 .000
Jason Lane, RF4021100 .268
Adam Everett, SS5000025 .246
Brad Ausmus, C3100110 .260
Brandon Backe, P2000013 .222
    Mike Gallo, P0000000 .000
    Scott Strickland, P0000000 .000
   a- Luke Scott, PH1110000 .177
    Russ Springer, P0000000 .000
   b- Jeff Bagwell, PH1000010 .258
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
    Charles Gipson, LF0000000 .182
a-doubled for Strickland in the 6th
b-struck out for Springer in the 8th
2B - Morgan Ensberg (30, Isringhausen), Luke Scott (3, Carpenter)
HR - Lance Berkman (22, Carpenter), Mike Lamb (11, Carpenter)
SF - Craig Biggio (3)
RBI - Craig Biggio (68), Willy Taveras (29), Morgan Ensberg (100), Lance Berkman 2 (79), Mike Lamb (51), Jason Lane (76)
2-OUT RBI - Willy Taveras (14), Lance Berkman 2 (34), Mike Lamb (21)
Team LOB - 9
DP - Backe-Everett-Lamb, Everett-Biggio-Lamb
E - Morgan Ensberg (15, Wild throw)
Houston Astros
Brandon Backe 4.1755221 4.76
Mike Gallo 0.1000000 2.66
Scott Strickland 0.1111001 6.75
Russ Springer 2200020 4.73
Chad Qualls (W,6-4) 1000010 3.36
Brad Lidge (S,40) 1000010 2.13
Pitches-Strikes - Brandon Backe 66-39, Mike Gallo 1-1, Scott Strickland 9-6, Russ Springer 35-24, Chad Qualls 11-7, Brad Lidge 11-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brandon Backe 7-3, Russ Springer 2-2, Chad Qualls 2-0, Brad Lidge 1-1
Batters Faced - Brandon Backe 21, Mike Gallo 1, Scott Strickland 2, Russ Springer 8, Chad Qualls 3, Brad Lidge 3
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS3110121 .292
Jim Edmonds, CF4012011 .262
Albert Pujols, 1B3100102 .329
Larry Walker, RF3011001 .285
    Skip Schumaker, PR-LF0000000 .263
Reggie Sanders, LF4223011 .268
    John Mabry, RF0000000 .241
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B4010010 .288
Yadier Molina, C4010001 .255
Abraham Nunez, 3B4000012 .281
Chris Carpenter, P2220000 .065
   a- John Gall, PH1010000 .270
    Al Reyes, P0000000 .000
    Jason Isringhausen, P0000000 .000
   b- So Taguchi, PH1000000 .287
a-singled for Carpenter in the 6th
b-flied out for Isringhausen in the 9th
2B - Mark Grudzielanek (30, Backe), Chris Carpenter 2 (2, Backe, Backe)
HR - Reggie Sanders 2 (20, Backe, Strickland)
SF - Jim Edmonds (4), Larry Walker (2)
SH - David Eckstein (8)
RBI - Jim Edmonds 2 (88), Larry Walker (50), Reggie Sanders 3 (49)
2-OUT RBI - Reggie Sanders 2 (25)
Team LOB - 5
E - Albert Pujols (14, Wild throw)
St. Louis Cardinals
Chris Carpenter 6965162 2.83
Al Reyes 2100030 2.21
Jason Isringhausen (L,1-2) 1211100 2.21
WP - Chris Carpenter (5)
Pitches-Strikes - Chris Carpenter 96-67, Al Reyes 34-22, Jason Isringhausen 29-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chris Carpenter 10-4, Al Reyes 1-2, Jason Isringhausen 1-2
Batters Faced - Chris Carpenter 30, Al Reyes 7, Jason Isringhausen 6
Game Information
Attendance - 40616
Game Time - 2:58
Temperature - 67
Umpires - Home - Gerry Davis, First Base - Bill Hohn, Second Base - Bruce Dreckman, Third Base - Doug Eddings