HOUSTON -- Maybe Brad Lidge can shake those incessant Albert Pujols questions now.
Lidge got past Pujols on Wednesday night and picked up the save in the Houston Astros' 5-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was his first meeting with the home run leader since Pujols tagged him for a three-run homer to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win over Houston in Game 5 of the NL championship series.
Pujols hit a long drive to the center-field hill with a man on second, but Willy Taveras trotted back and caught it halfway up the hill, just in front of the 436-foot sign, to easily grab it for the out.
Roy Oswalt pitched eight strong innings and Lance Berkman drove in three runs for the Astros. Lidge pitched the ninth inning and got his 10th save in 12 opportunities, but allowed a one-out RBI single to Jim Edmonds.
Pujols thinks too much has been made about that home run last season.
"If I make a team, he's the first guy that I would put on it," Pujols said of Lidge. "He still has nasty stuff. It was just a game last year. It's over. They advanced to the World Series and I'm pretty sure he was more excited about that. He's still one of the best closers in the game."
Despite all the talk surrounding the two players, Lidge said he didn't approach him any differently.
"He hit it better than I wanted him to, but it's Albert Pujols and you get him out any way you can," Lidge said. "I have no images of walking him or pitching around him. I do like facing him, but not with a man on second."
Oswalt (5-1) gave up only four hits, but three were solo home runs. He struck out five and walked none.
Houston led 5-1 before Pujols and Hector Luna homered to almost the same spot in left field in consecutive innings off of Oswalt to cut the lead to 5-3 in the eighth.
Pujols hit his first home run of May, a solo shot in the seventh inning, in his return to the lineup. The feat was greeted with loud boos from the packed crowd.
Pujols, who leads the league in home runs (15) and is second in RBI (33), sat out Tuesday with stiffness in his back. He said he still isn't feeling completely healthy.
"It's not like I'm 100 percent today," he said. "I was struggling with my swing. I was trying to fight through. But if I'm 65 to 75 percent I can still help my team win. That's how I feel right now."
Berkman's performance Wednesday pushed him ahead of Pujols to lead the majors with 34 RBI.
Houston jumped out to an early lead when Berkman hit a two-run double in the first before scoring on Jason Lane's sacrifice fly to center field.
Taveras chased starter Jason Marquis with a RBI-triple to the right-field corner in the sixth inning. Berkman's second double of the night scored Taveras and gave Houston a 5-1 lead. Taveras finished with three hits.
Marquis (3-3) allowed eight hits, five runs and walked four in 5 2/3 innings.
Scott Spiezio hit his third home run of the season on a solo homer to right center field with two outs in the second inning.
Oswalt, who had only given up two home runs this season before Wednesday, said he was glad all the home runs were one-run homers.
"It's going to be a battle anytime you face St. Louis," he said. "So anytime you can go through that lineup and get eight good innings you have to feel good."
After Spiezio's home run, Oswalt pitched three hitless innings before a single by Marquis in the sixth inning. With runners on first and second, John Rodriguez grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Astros manager Phil Garner downplayed the notion that beating the Cardinals means more to Houston than other wins since they are considered rivals.
"Well the last two years we get into the Wild Card by one game," Garner said. "So this game was important. But I don't know if it's any more important than any other game."
The defeat gives the Cardinals a three-game losing streak for just the second time this season.
Berkman has hit safely in 23 of 27 games this season and failed to reach base only twice. Wednesday was his seventh three-RBI game of the season. ... Marquis was 4-0 in five starts against the Astros last season with a 3.22 ERA. ... The Astros' 18-9 record this season equals their franchise-best mark through 27 games that was set in 1980.
|Players of the Game|
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|St. Louis Cardinals|
|David Eckstein, SS||4||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|John Rodriguez, LF||4||1||1||0||0||1||2|
|Albert Pujols, 1B||4||1||1||1||0||0||1|
|Jim Edmonds, CF||4||0||1||1||0||0||0|
|Juan Encarnacion, RF||3||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Scott Spiezio, 3B||4||1||1||1||0||2||2|
|Gary Bennett, C||3||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|a- Aaron Miles, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Hector Luna, 2B||3||1||1||1||0||0||0|
|Jason Marquis, P||2||0||1||0||0||1||0|
|Brad Thompson, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|b- John Gall, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Brian Falkenborg, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|a-grounded out for Bennett in the 9th|
|b-struck out for Thompson in the 8th|
|2B - John Rodriguez (, Lidge)|
|HR - Albert Pujols (, Oswalt), Scott Spiezio (, Oswalt), Hector Luna (, Oswalt)|
|RBI - Albert Pujols (), Jim Edmonds (), Scott Spiezio (), Hector Luna ()|
|2-OUT RBI - Scott Spiezio ()|
|SB - Jim Edmonds (, 2nd base off Lidge/Ausmus)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Jason Marquis (L,-)||5.2||8||5||5||4||3||0|
|IBB - Everett by Brad Thompson|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jason Marquis 117-70, Brad Thompson 20-10, Brian Falkenborg 23-16|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jason Marquis 6-8, Brad Thompson 2-2, Brian Falkenborg 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Jason Marquis 29, Brad Thompson 7, Brian Falkenborg 3|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||4||2||1||0||1||1||1|
|Eric Bruntlett, 2B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Willy Taveras, CF||4||2||3||1||1||0||0|
|Lance Berkman, 1B||5||1||3||3||0||1||1|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||0||5|
|Preston Wilson, LF||4||0||1||0||0||2||2|
|Jason Lane, RF||3||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Brad Ausmus, C||3||0||1||0||1||0||1|
|Adam Everett, SS||3||0||0||0||1||1||3|
|Roy Oswalt, P||3||0||0||0||1||0||2|
|Brad Lidge, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|2B - Lance Berkman 2 (, Marquis, Thompson), Brad Ausmus (, Marquis)|
|3B - Willy Taveras (, Marquis)|
|SF - Jason Lane ()|
|RBI - Willy Taveras (), Lance Berkman 3 (), Jason Lane ()|
|2-OUT RBI - Willy Taveras (), Lance Berkman ()|
|Team LOB - 10|
|DP - Oswalt-Everett-Berkman|
|E - Morgan Ensberg (, Wild throw)|
|Roy Oswalt (W,-)||8||4||3||3||0||5||3|
|Brad Lidge (S,)||1||2||1||1||0||1||0|
|HBP - Encarnacion (by Brad Lidge)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Roy Oswalt 117-83, Brad Lidge 20-15|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Roy Oswalt 12-7, Brad Lidge 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Roy Oswalt 28, Brad Lidge 6|
|Attendance - 37305|
|Game Time - 2:54|
|Temperature - 84|
|Umpires - Home - Chad Fairchild, First Base - James Hoye, Second Base - Ron Kulpa, Third Base - Dale Scott|