Friday, July 15, 2005 - At Busch Stadium II (Mark Mulder - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Houston Astros (Andy Pettitte - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 48,420
In a marathon thirteen-inning game that would take four hours and twenty-three minutes to complete, Albert Pujols' two-run home run lifted the Cardinals to a thrilling 4-3 win over the Houston Astros. That was his only hit (along with one walk) in six plate appearances - so it's safe to say he was due.
Both starting pitchers - Mark Mulder (8 IP) and Andy Pettitte (7 IP) - had strong outings - both allowing just one run while they were in there.
The Cardinals scored first, when second baseman Mark Grudzielanek hit his fifth home run of the season in the second-inning.
The Astros tied the game in the fifth-inning. After loading the bases on three singles, Mulder uncorked a wild pitch with Craig Biggio batting - scoring Chris Burke, who had the first of the three singles. But Mulder escaped with no further damage - despite walking Biggio to load the bases again - this time for the ever-dangerous Lance Berkman - who lined out to Jim Edmonds in center. Lance would fail to get a hit in five plate appearances - although he did walk once. In fact, Biggio had just two walks - and no hits - in seven plate appearances.
Keeping that one-two tandem in check was one of the big keys for a Cardinal victory - which would have ended in regulation, had closer Jason Isringhausen managed to get through the ninth, unscathed. By then, the Cardinals added another run in the eighth-inning when reserve catcher Einar Diaz connected for his first and only home run of the season - off reliever Chad Qualls - giving the Redbirds a 2-1 lead heading into the fateful ninth-inning.
However, Orlando Palmiero's lead-off double turned into a run (after advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt) when Mike Lamb scored him on a sacrifice fly to left field.
From this point, the bullpens took over, keeping the other team in check until the thirteenth-inning rolled around. Julian Taverez pitched a scoreless tenth and eleventh for St Louis, then Reyes made it through the twelfth unscathed - while Gallo, Wheeler, Lidge and Springer foiled the Cardinals' attempts to walk-off with a win through twelve.
With Reyes still pitching for the Cardinals in the thirteenth-inning - with one out, Orlando Palmiero walked. Ausmus then bunted him over to second. With Lamb the next battter, manager Tony LaRussa replaced Reyes with Ray King - but the strategy failed, as Lamb stroked an RBI single to center, giving Houston a 3-2 lead. After yielding another hit, Brad Thompson was summoned from the bullpen to retire the only batter he would face. Little did he know, his 0.1 IP would earn him his first win of the year.
In the bottom of the thirteenth - with Springer pitching for the Astros - David Eckstein coaxed a lead-off walk. Then Edmonds, trying to end it in one swing, struck out. At this point, Houston manager Phil Garner brought in Chad Harville - a fresh arm - to pitch to Albert Pujols.
Pujols worked the count full, fouling off a couple of nasty sliders to stay alive. On Harville's seventh pitch - a fastball that caught too much of the plate - Pujols launched it deep to left-center field - and when it finally landed - the Cardinals had walked-off with the win. It took Albert six plate appearances before getting his first hit of the game - but for the Cardinal fans now going crazy, it was worth the wait.