Oswalt and the Astros showed it's possible to win on the road in the NL championship series.
Now, it's back to Texas.
"I was pretty pumped up," Oswalt said. "It's a key game, for sure, to leave here with a split and go home to play three games."
While Oswalt's performance hardly classified as a surprise -- after all, he's had consecutive 20-win seasons -- but the same can't be said for Burke.
The rookie outfielder came through in the division series with an 18th-inning homer that knocked out Atlanta, and he had a pinch-hit, two-run homer Wednesday in Houston's Game 1 loss to St. Louis.
One night later, Burke got his first postseason start and made the most of it, scoring two runs and driving in another with a two-out single in the eighth.
"He has not had a chance to play much in the postseason," teammate Craig Biggio said, "but he's been a huge contributor for us and a big lift."
Burke's RBI single ended Houston's 0-for-14 drought with runners in scoring position and improved his postseason numbers to 5-for-8 with two homers and four RBI.
"Well, I was hardly the hero tonight," he said. "Roy was great -- seven innings pitched and one run. He bailed us out quite a few times. Luckily, I was able to get a couple knocks."
The only knock for the Cardinals was Albert Pujols' 438-foot homer leading off the sixth.
Otherwise, Oswalt made every big pitch he needed, improving his career postseason record to 3-0 by allowing just five hits and striking out six.
"Stuff-wise, he's as good as it gets in this league," St. Louis' Jim Edmonds said.
Edmonds should know. The dangerous left-handed hitter twice faced the right-handed Oswalt with two runners on -- and didn't come through either time.
In the fifth, Edmonds took a called third strike on a 3-2 fastball at the knees. Two innings later, the crowd of 52,358 -- nearly all of them adorned in red -- was in an uproar after the Cardinals put runners at first and second with only one out.
But Oswalt retired David Eckstein with a fly ball to center, then got Edmonds on a grounder to first -- the last of the starter's 108 pitches. Oswalt covered on the play, pumping his fist after he took the flip from Lance Berkman.
"That's not typical," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "That's about the most you'll get out of Roy."
Overall, the Cardinals went 0-for-6 against Oswalt with runners in scoring position.
Brad Lidge came on for a two-inning save, closing out the six-hitter with three strikeouts.
The Central Division rivals are meeting in the NLCS for the second year in a row, with the first eight games all won by the home team.
The 2004 series went the distance, with St. Louis advancing to the World Series by winning four games at Busch Stadium. The streak continued with the Cardinals' victory Wednesday.
Now, St. Louis has to win at least one game in Texas -- something it couldn't do last year -- to bring the series back to soon-to-be demolished Busch, which will be replaced next season by a new stadium going up next door.
"We're definitely pleased to take one game here and take the momentum," Burke said. "We're excited to get home to our fans and that place will be rocking."
Sanders, the Cardinals' hottest postseason hitter with 12 RBI, fell awkwardly on the warning track and left the game with a sprained lower back. Manager Tony La Russa isn't sure if Sanders will be able to play in Game 3.
"The doctor said it was like a train wreck," La Russa said. "He didn't break anything, but he was bruised all over."
The Cardinals fell behind for the first time in the playoffs when Houston pushed an unearned run across in the second.
Burke tripled to the gap, barely beating Mark Grudzielanek's relay throw. Mulder retired Everett on a grounder back to the mound, then walked Brad Ausmus intentionally to get to the weak-hitting Oswalt.
On a 2-0 count, Ausmus took off for second on an attempted steal, which appeared to distract catcher Yadier Molina. He let an inside fastball deflect off his glove for a passed ball, and Burke trotted home with the first run of the game.
In its first four postseason games, St. Louis outscored San Diego and Houston 16-0 through the first four innings.
The Astros made it 2-0 in the fifth. Ausmus doubled to the wall, Oswalt got down a sacrifice bunt and Biggio hit a grounder to short with the infield back to drive in the run.
The Cardinals put two runners on against Oswalt in the first to bring up Sanders, whose two-run homer sparked a 5-3 victory in Game 1. This time, he ended the threat by grounding out to third.
Edmonds atoned a bit for his offensive shortcomings with a brilliant defensive play in the sixth. Morgan Ensberg hit a drive to the gap in right-center, but Edmonds stretched out to make the backhanded catch, belly-flopping onto the warning track but holding on.
Mulder pitched well enough to win, giving up eight hits and one earned run in seven innings.
But Oswalt was even better.
"What you saw tonight is not unusual," Garner said. "Boy, he stepped up large for us tonight and just took control of the ballgame. He just absolutely dominated the game."
Roy Oswalt strikes out six and allows just one run in seven innings as Houston evens the NLCS. (AP)
|Players of the Game|
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|Craig Biggio, 2B||5||0||2||1||0||2||2||.296|
|Willy Taveras, CF||5||0||2||0||0||0||2||.318|
|Lance Berkman, 1B||4||1||2||0||0||1||3||.364|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||0||3||.231|
|Jason Lane, RF||4||0||0||0||0||2||2||.167|
|Chris Burke, LF||4||2||2||1||0||0||1||.625|
|Adam Everett, SS||4||0||1||1||0||1||1||.273|
|Brad Lidge, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Brad Ausmus, C||3||1||1||0||1||1||1||.250|
|Roy Oswalt, P||1||0||1||0||1||0||0||.250|
|Eric Bruntlett, SS||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.143|
|2B - Lance Berkman (3, Tavarez), Brad Ausmus (2, Mulder)|
|3B - Chris Burke (1, Mulder), Adam Everett (1, Tavarez)|
|SH - Roy Oswalt (1)|
|RBI - Craig Biggio (2), Chris Burke (4), Adam Everett (2)|
|2-OUT RBI - Chris Burke (3), Adam Everett (1)|
|SB - Brad Ausmus (1, 2nd base off Mulder/Molina)|
|CS - Willy Taveras (1, 2nd base by Mulder/Molina)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|E - Morgan Ensberg (2, )|
|Roy Oswalt (W,2-0)||7||5||1||1||3||6||1||2.51|
|Brad Lidge (S,1)||2||1||0||0||0||3||0||0.00|
|Pitches-Strikes - Roy Oswalt 108-75, Brad Lidge 31-20|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Roy Oswalt 12-3, Brad Lidge 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Roy Oswalt 29, Brad Lidge 7|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|David Eckstein, SS||3||0||0||0||1||0||2||.350|
|Jim Edmonds, CF||4||0||1||0||0||2||4||.278|
|Albert Pujols, 1B||4||1||1||1||0||0||0||.438|
|Larry Walker, RF||3||0||0||0||1||1||0||.063|
|Jason Marquis, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Reggie Sanders, LF||3||0||1||0||0||1||2||.333|
|So Taguchi, LF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.000|
|Mark Grudzielanek, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.143|
|Abraham Nunez, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.389|
|Yadier Molina, C||4||0||2||0||0||1||1||.250|
|Mark Mulder, P||2||0||0||0||0||2||1||.000|
|a- John Rodriguez, PH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.000|
|Julian Tavarez, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|John Mabry, RF||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.333|
|a-walked for Mulder in the 7th|
|2B - Yadier Molina 2 (2, Oswalt, Oswalt)|
|HR - Albert Pujols (1, Oswalt)|
|RBI - Albert Pujols (4)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Mulder-Grudzielanek-Pujols|
|PB - Yadier Molina (1)|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Mark Mulder (L,1-1)||7||8||2||1||2||6||0||1.32|
|IBB - Ausmus by Mark Mulder|
|WP - Julian Tavarez (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Mark Mulder 115-71, Julian Tavarez 21-13, Jason Marquis 17-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mark Mulder 8-5, Julian Tavarez 2-1, Jason Marquis 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Mark Mulder 29, Julian Tavarez 6, Jason Marquis 3|
|Attendance - 52358|
|Game Time - 3:03|
|Temperature - 67|
|Umpires - Home - Greg Gibson, First Base - Wally Bell, Second Base - Phil Cuzzi, Third Base - Larry Poncino|