ST. LOUIS – Scott Rolen (search) and the St. Louis Cardinals sure stormed back in a hurry.
Rolen hit two home runs, combining with Albert Pujols (search) for back-to-back shots in the eighth inning that sent the Cardinals past the Houston Astros (search) 6-4 on a miserable Thursday night for a 2-0 lead in the NL championship series.
After Pujols' tiebreaking drive, Rolen connected in the rain to give the Cardinals consecutive home runs for the first time in their long, proud postseason history.
It was especially rewarding for Rolen. Nursing a strained left calf, the All-Star slugger was 0-for-14 in this year's playoffs before an RBI single in Game 1.
"I don't know what my postseason numbers are, but tonight I contributed to help us win a ballgame," Rolen said.
And what did his teammates say to him?
"About damn time," Rolen said, laughing.
The conditions were awful all evening, with drizzle delaying the start for almost a half-hour and the wet weather lasting through the final pitch. But in the end, with temperatures falling into the mid-40s, no one in the sellout crowd at Busch Stadium was complaining.
Larry Walker also homered for St. Louis in a series dominated by the sluggers. Carlos Beltran hit his sixth homer of the postseason and Morgan Ensberg also homered as the Astros took a 3-0 lead.
"The good thing is this isn't a two-game series," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "We're not where we want to be certainly, but we'll work this thing out."
Roger Clemens will start Game 3 Saturday when the series shifts to Minute Maid Park, facing Jeff Suppan. If the Rocket can pull the Astros close, then 20-game winner Roy Oswalt will have a chance to even it in Game 4.
"Those guys have been our horses all year and we'll turn to them now and ask them to do what they've been doing all year, and that's win for us," Garner said.
Still, the Cardinals hold a commanding edge.
Of 61 clubs that have fallen behind 0-2 in a best-of-seven postseason baseball series, only 12 have come back to win.
Julian Tavarez got the victory in relief. Jason Isringhausen worked around two walks in the ninth, getting Ensberg on a long fly out to finish for his second save of the NLCS.
Dan Miceli took the loss as the Astros' bullpen continued to falter. He took over to begin the eighth and gave up home runs to the first two batters he faced.
Rolen showed no ill effects in Game 2 as he and Walker hit two-run homers that put St. Louis ahead 4-3 in the fifth. Rolen was the first batter Chad Harville faced after he relieved journeyman starter Pete Munro.
Beltran's sixth homer of the postseason helped the Astros to a 3-0 lead off Matt Morris.
Houston later made it 4-all in the seventh when Lance Berkman doubled, stole third and scored when Ensberg grounded a single past the drawn-in infield. The tying hit off Kiko Calero came against an especially odd backdrop.
During the at-bat, fireworks exploded high beyond the left-field roof. They came from the riverboat Becky Thatcher, which someone had commissioned for a party on the nearby Mississippi.
Calero backed off the mound, Ensberg stepped out of the box, and fans cheered the multicolor show. Coincidentally, the Cardinals stopped shooting off fireworks after home runs this season because they posed a danger to construction workers building the team's new stadium set to open in 2006.
The Cardinals were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position before Walker delivered the big hit they needed. The slugger completed his cycle, albeit a day later — he tripled, doubled and singled in a 10-7 win in the opener.
Munro gave the Astros exactly what they needed, at least for a while. But like unheralded Brandon Backe in the opener, Munro was pulled after 4 2-3 innings with a one-run lead, falling one out shy of qualifying for the win.
And for the second straight day, the Houston bullpen quickly gave away the edge.
Munro pitched in and out of trouble all night. Even so, he did a lot better than most people expected from a guy who began the season at Triple-A for Minnesota, was released in June, signed with the Astros and got sent back to the minors in August.
Beltran homered on the third pitch of the game, lining a shot into the right-field box seats. He hit a drive into almost the identical spot in the first inning in Game 1.
With each swing this October, Beltran figures to get richer. He's eligible for free agency after the postseason ends, and the Astros are expected to be among the bidders for the prime, five-tool player.
Ensberg made it 2-0 with a leadoff shot in the fourth. That marked the Astros' ninth run of this NLCS, all of them coming on six homers.
Houston finally found another way to score in the fifth, an inning that brought both managers onto the field.
Craig Biggio opened with a single and moved up on a balk by Morris that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa contested. After Jeff Bagwell walked with one out, Berkman lined an RBI single over Pujols' leap.
Pujols' glove flew off when he jumped, and the mitt missed the ball. Still, Garner wanted to be sure it was called correctly — and it was.
Rule 7.05 (c) specifies that runners get to advance three bases if a fielder deliberately throws his glove and hits a fair ball. But the rules also spell out there is no penalty if the glove misses, or if it "flies off his hand as he makes an obvious effort to make a legitimate catch."
Notes:@ LF umpire Ed Rapuano left in the second inning because of dizziness. He was examined by a doctor. ... It was 48 degrees at gametime, the coldest start in a postseason game since it was 46 for Game 5 of the 1997 World Series at Cleveland.