Cardinals Push Astros to Decisive Game 7

Jim Edmonds (search) finished what Albert Pujols started for the St. Louis Cardinals (search).

Edmonds blasted a two-run homer in the 12th inning and the rejuvenated St. Louis Cardinals forced the NL championship series to Game 7, beating the Houston Astros (search) 6-4 Wednesday to even it at 3-all.

"This what it's all about, right here," Edmonds said.

Next up for St. Louis: Roger Clemens.

Clemens came out of retirement for the sole purpose of pitching his hometown Astros into their first World Series. Now, he'll get that chance Thursday night when he starts against former Boston teammate Jeff Suppan.

It will be will Clemens' fourth career start in a Game 7 -- he's 1-0 in those all-or-nothing outings after getting knocked out early last year in the ALCS for the New York Yankees.

After Jeff Bagwell's two-out single in the ninth off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen tied it at 4, Edmonds won it with a one-out shot off Dan Miceli.

Astros superman Brad Lidge blew away St. Louis for three perfect innings, striking out five before Miceli relieved in the 12th.

"Of course you want him out of there," Pujols said of Lidge.

Pujols drew a leadoff walk and one out later Edmonds homered way over the St. Louis bullpen in right field.

The Cardinals won a postseason game in extra innings for the first time since the 1964 World Series at Yankee Stadium. Righty Julian Tavarez, pitching with a broken left hand, went two innings for the win.

"It's my understanding that it's the fingers that are broken as opposed to the hand, so I'm not surprised. He did throw well," Astros manager Phil Garner said.

Garner picked journeyman Pete Munro to pitch Game 6, rather than going with the Rocket on three days' rest. But Pujols' first-inning homer landed in the Houston bullpen, and pretty soon some relievers were stirring in there, too.

For the Cardinals, it will be a chance to make their first World Series in four NLCS trips under manager Tony La Russa. For baseball, it marks the second straight year that both championship series went seven games.

Isringhausen took a 4-3 lead into the ninth, but immediately putt himself in jeopardy by hitting pinch-hitter Morgan Ensberg leading off. A bunt moved Ensberg to second and Craig Biggio hit a fly ball for the second out.

That brought up the marvelous Carlos Beltran, and the Cardinals huddled on the mound. A big cheer broke out in the sellout crowd of 52,144 when catcher Mike Matheny signaled for an intentional walk.

But Bagwell foiled the strategy, hitting a hard RBI single on the first pitch. After a double steal, Isringhausen managed to keep it tied by striking out Lance Berkman.

In the bottom half, Lidge retired the first two batters before a fastball over the head of Edmonds.

La Russa came out of the dugout to discuss the pitch with plate umpire Ed Rapuano. Before the game, the manager angrily confronted baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson behind the batting cage, steamed that Tavarez was fined $10,000 for a pitch over Bagwell's helmet in Game 4.

After hitting only .161 in three straight losses at Minute Maid Park, the Cardinals quickly found their stroke at Busch Stadium.

Pujols put St. Louis ahead with his sixth homer of the postseason, a two-run shot, and later added a double and single. He scored twice, and was nailed at the plate another time when he ran through a coach's stop sign.

Beltran, continuing to build his October resume, hit two balls off the right-field wall and both times was held to a single by right fielder Larry Walker's fast relay. Beltran scored twice, and his 20 runs broke Barry Bonds' postseason record of 18 set in 2002.

St. Louis starter Matt Morris hung on for five innings.

Munro lasted just 2 1-3 innings, half the distance he went for Houston in Game 2. The wild-card Astros hoped to get lucky with a guy who started the season in the minors with Minnesota and won only four games in the majors, but he never gave them a chance.

Munro was tagged for four runs, with slumping Tony Womack, Edgar Renteria and Reggie Sanders all delivering. Houston's much-maligned middle relievers were effective, although it was too late.

After totaling only four hits Monday -- a record low for any postseason game -- the Astros and Cardinals beat that in the first inning alone. They also scored three times following Houston's 3-0 win in Game 5 on Jeff Kent's ninth-inning homer.

Beltran kept up his magnificent month by walking, stealing second and later scoring on Berkman's sacrifice fly to put Houston ahead 1-0.

The Cardinals came right back. Womack, urged by La Russa to be more aggressive, led off with a single and Pujols homered. As Chad Harville hurried to warm up, Munro escaped a two-on jam by getting Sanders on a fly ball.

Houston got a lucky bounce to make it 2-all in the third. Beltran singled and easily scored despite a stumble when Bagwell's double caromed off a jutting retaining wall and rolled into no man's land in short left.

Pujols shifted the momentum back to St. Louis' side with a leadoff double in the bottom half, and Scott Rolen singled. Renteria, who ended an 0-for-15 slide with a single his first time up, delivered a two-run single that finished Munro.

Mike Lamb, starting at third base in place of the struggling Ensberg, hit a solo homer in the Houston fourth that made it 4-3. Of his 16 home runs this year, six have come against the Cardinals, including a pinch-hit shot in Game 1.

Notes: Womack singled twice, but left after three innings because of lower back spasms. Hector Luna took over at 2B. ... Isringhausen pitched three innings for the first time since Sept. 9, 2001, with Oakland. ... SS Renteria made two nifty plays, highlighting the Cardinals' stellar defense. They have not made an error in 10 games, a record streak for a single postseason, the Elias Sports Bureau said. ... The teams have combined for 22 home runs, one shy of the record for a postseason series set by the Cubs and Marlins in last year's NLCS.