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Astros short hops

Astros short hops

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HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols' three-run homer in the ninth inning off Houston closer Brad Lidge kept the champagne on ice and sent the National League Championship Series back to St. Louis for Game 6.

The Astros were one out away from clinching their first World Series berth, but Lidge gave up a single to David Eckstein and walked Jim Edmonds, setting the stage for Pujols.

Houston rallied from a 2-1 deficit when Lance Berkman hit a three-run homer in the seventh for a 4-2 lead.

Vitals check
A look at key statistics through Game 5 of the NLCS.

Team stats

Digits Trend The Deal
ERA 3.14 After holding the Cardinals to five runs in the last three games, Astros pitchers allowed five runs in Game 5
BA .269 Houston's offense hasn't put up more than four runs in a game in this series
BA w/ RISP .085 Berkman's three-run homer was the big blast of the night for Houston
Runs 13 The Astros squeezed in just two runs and haven't scored more than four in a game in the series
Errors 3 Two errors in Game 5, but no damage done

Who's hot?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Lance Berkman 2-for-3, three-run homer in Game 5 (.353 in series) Berkman's blast gave the Astros a 4-2 lead in the seventh. He is the one man Cardinals manager Tony La Russa does not want to beat his team

Who's not?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Mike Lamb 0-4, strikeout Lamb couldn't get the job done with runners on base

Behind the numbers
Cardinals batters were batting just .167 against Lidge coming into Game 5. After giving up the three-run homer to Pujols, Lidge's ERA jumped from 2.25 to 7.20.

Frozen moment
Considering the last two games had been decided by one run, it looked like Berkman's homer would be enough to send Houston to its first Fall Classic.

Second guessing
Manager Phil Garner took Craig Biggio out in the top of the eighth for defense, replacing him with Eric Bruntlett. Garner likely expected Lidge to close the game out in the ninth, but when Lidge didn't, the Astros were minus Biggio's bat when his turn came up in the bottom of the inning. Instead, Jose Vizcaino batted for Bruntlett.

Last word
"We were feeling pretty good, but you have to play every out. We failed to play every out tonight." -- Garner

Stephen A. Norris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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