If there has been one constant for the Cardinals this season it has been their ability to make the right play at the right time. This was never more evident than in their 5-3 win over the Astros in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

Chris Carpenter lasted eight innings, giving up two runs off five hits and three walks. Not bad numbers, but early on some of those hits and walks got him in trouble. Luckily he got help from the defense.

Carpenter was given a 2-0 lead in the first inning when left fielder Reggie Sanders blasted a two-run homer to left. It was his 12th RBI of the post season. He set an NLDS record with 10 RBI’s against San Diego.

In the bottom of the second, Carpenter laid down a sacrifice bunt to drive in Abraham Nunez from third base. That gave Carpenter a 3-0 lead and a little more breathing room, but his breathing would quicken moments later.

Carpenter got into a jam in the third inning when he loaded the bases. He allowed a lead-off single to Brad Ausmus, then walked Craig Biggio and Willy Taveras consecutively. Lance Berkman stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, when the Cardinals’ defense bailed Carpenter out of the mini-mess. Berkman grounded sharply to Mark Grudzielanek who stretched to his left and fired back to David Eckstein at second for the second out of the inning. Eckstein then threw over to first to complete the inning-ending double play.

Carpenter got into more trouble in the fourth by putting runners on first and third with one out. Again the defense came to his rescue. Adam Everett grounded to Abraham Nunez at third, but instead of going to first, Nunez threw Morgan Ensberg out at home. Brad Ausmus was up next, but grounded out innocently to end the inning.

Carpenter induced 16 ground balls on Wednesday night.

The offense perked up in the bottom of the fifth with two more runs. David Eckstein drove in Nunez with a double and Albert Pujols knocked in Eckstein with a single to make it 5-0.

The shutout came to an end when Chris Burke hit a two-run pinch hit home run that bounced off the façade, just below the upper deck. That cut St. Louis’ lead to 5-2.

Closer Jason Isringhausen allowed a run in the ninth, but still got the save.
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