Top: Wow. Eight minutes and a half-inning into the game, and the Astros are up 2-0 on Beltran's laser beam down the right-field line. That makes five home runs in the postseason already, and I suspect he's already forgotten that his late-season power slump -- zero regular-season home runs after September 7 -- cost him membership in the 40/40 club. The Astros' only real chance in these first two games is to just bludgeon the St. Louis starters. And though it's early, they're certainly off to a good start. Woody Williams did show a good yakker in striking out Berkman.
Bottom: In his first inning of work, Brandon Backe gave up three screamers: first a liner that Berkman lost in the lights, then an opposite-field shot from Pujols that tied the game, and finally Jim Edmonds' single to right. Honestly, looking at Backe and Munro, I think the Cardinals might score more than a dozen runs in these first two games (combined). Cardinals 13, Astros 8.
Top: Listening to the TV broadcast (because ESPN Radio's doing the ALCS) of the NLCS, Thom Brennaman just referred to Pete Munro -- Houston's Game 2 starter -- as a "youngster." Uh, Thom? Pete Munro turned 29 four months ago. He's a youngster only when compared to broadcasters and writers. Woody Williams cruised through the top of the second.
Bottom: Backe looked awfully sharp in the bottom of the second; but then, Reggie Sanders is easy pickings for a right-hander with a decent slider (which Backe's got). The true test comes when he faces the middle of the order again. If he can get past Murderers Row without giving up a crooked number, the Astros actually have a shot in this game.
Top: Since giving up the home run to Beltran, Woody Williams has retired nine straight Astros (including Beltran, on a strikeout) and looked like he wasn't straining to do it. I don't believe in momentum in baseball, but Williams certainly seems to have settled down.
Bottom: Just as Williams did, Backe pitched a great third. Maybe my prediction of a slugfest was koo-koo krazy?
Bottom: Backe was dealing in the second and third: zero baserunners, four strikeouts. But I wonder if he wore himself out a little bit. If a pitcher can avoid overthrowing (and screwing up his form), he can get a bit extra on his pitches for short bursts (think about the turbo thrusters in a jet fighter). But after the burst ... Here's a prediction: Backe won't make it out of the sixth. He does have a 4-2 lead after four, though, so you Astros fans have to be at least mildly optimistic.
Bottom: Backe's done, with two outs in the fifth. Should I go back and edit my previous comment, and predict instead that he won't escape the fifth? (I said the sixth.) Nobody will ever know except me, you, and the wall. ... So what chance do the Astros have now? Realistically, we're not going to see Brad Lidge until the eighth, which means Houston's shaky middle relievers have to record seven outs, at least, without giving up a few runs.
Bottom: Cardinals go up one run on Cedeno's RBI grounder to Bagwell. ... Another grounder up the middle. Cardinals up two runs, and in a few minutes their outstanding bullpen will take over. I'm going to say something controversial in about 45 minutes, and I hope you'll stick around long enough to hear (i.e. read) it. ... Now it's 7-4, Astros, thanks to another weak single (plus Vizcaino's throwing error and Bagwell's inability to block a ball in the dirt). Game over?
Bottom: 10-4 after six innings. Steve Lyons just said this game is far from over. At least now we know why they call him "Psycho," right? Yes, the Astros have an excellent lineup. But no, they're not going to score seven runs off La Russa's bullpenners. I'm not sure what I'm going to write about, at the remaining half-inning breaks. So feel free to shoot some questions my way.
Thanks to everybody, and good night. We'll see you tomorrow.
Senior writer Rob Neyer writes four columns per week during the baseball season.