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Sports

Cards outslug Astros

| Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Make no mistake about it -- this is a sluggers' series.

Albert Pujols homered early, Larry Walker delivered three key hits and the St. Louis Cardinals withstood four Houston shots to outlast the Astros, 10-7, on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the NL championship series.

Slumping Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds also contributed, and winning pitcher Woody Williams even helped out with a big double for the league's top-hitting team.

Together, that was enough -- barely -- to withstand homers by Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent and Mike Lamb.

And it was a significant victory: The last 11 teams to win the opener of the NLCS have gone on to reach the World Series.

No one predicted that pitchers would rule in this series, and it was an accurate call.

In an October when the ball is flying, the Cardinals and Astros took turns whacking shots all over Busch Stadium, with Walker finishing a home run shy of becoming the first player in postseason history to hit for the cycle.

Now, unheralded Pete Munro gets his chance to try to slow down the team that led the majors with 105 victories. A guy who started the season in the minors with Minnesota, Munro will start Game 2 for Houston against 15-game winner Matt Morris tonight.

For sure, Houston manager Phil Garner will find himself watching The Weather Channel overnight. The forecast is for showers, and the Astros would certainly welcome it. A rainout would allow them to bring back ace Roger Clemens in Game 2.

Edmonds' three-run double capped a six-run burst in the sixth that put St. Louis ahead, 10-4. Chad Qualls wound up as the losing pitcher, in relief of Brandon Backe.

Jason Isringhausen got the final out for a save.

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