Minute Maid Park in Houston
Astros sweep Cardinals, take wild-card lead
HoustonChronicle.com – Astros sweep Cardinals, take wild-card lead: “The cheers started in the clubhouse Wednesday afternoon while several Astros watched on television as the Cincinnati Reds mounted a rally in the ninth to force extra innings against the Chicago Cubs.
The celebration got a little louder during batting practice, when the Astros prepared for the St. Louis Cardinals by seeing the Reds complete their win over the Cubs on Minute Maid Park’s Jumbotron.
The stadium was rocking by the seventh inning when Jeff Bagwell drove in the go-ahead run and Lance Berkman drove in an insurance run, helping complete a three-game sweep of the Cardinals with a 6-4 victory before a sellout crowd of 43,186.
Houston’s victory combined with Chicago’s loss and a loss late Wednesday by San Francisco put the Astros a half-game ahead of the Cubs and Giants atop the NL wild-card standings.
“I know there’s a lot of excitement in here,” Bagwell said after going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “We have a lot of young guys who have never been through this before, and everybody is excited, and they should be.
“It is an exciting time. But as veterans and as a team, we understand that we have to take care of business. We had to go out and win tonight, and we did.”
With the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the seventh, Orlando Palmeiro hit for reliever Chad Qualls (4-0) and drew a five-pitch walk from Jeff Suppan. After the speedy Willy Taveras was sent to run for Palmeiro, Craig Biggio sacrificed, and Taveras reached third on Carlos Beltran’s groundout to second. Bagwell came through with a clutch two-out single to left, and Berkman followed with an RBI double to left-center field, giving the Astros a 6-4 lead.
“I’ve never felt as much energy in our clubhouse and with our fans as there is right now,” Brad Lidge said after pitching the ninth for his 27th save. “Right now the atmosphere is just electric. It’s fantastic. You can really feel the fans behind you right now.”