The consecutive 20-game winner stayed fearless through his outing, helping
his teammates bring the series to Houston tied at one game apiece. For the local press, Oswalt's performance provided hope that the team could go all the way.
"This is the game the Astros hope to play again and again. This is their
blueprint victory," wrote Houston Chronicle
columnist Richard Justice. "They are
about the pitching. At times, they don't have much else. Most times, they don't need
"They've got the best starting rotation in these playoffs. They've got the
best closer, too. Their formula isn't complicated."
Oswalt made Houston's offensive woes seem irrelevant with seven brilliant
frames, then turned it over to dominating closer Brad Lidge. Roger Clemens or Andy
Pettitte could have done the same thing. This just happened to be Oswalt's turn.
While the victory didn't guarantee anything, it helped promote good will
throughout Texas for the team that fought hard to get to the postseason, then
outlasted the favored Braves.
"Forget everything else that has happened to the Astros this season," wrote
Justice. "Forget the guys they lost in free agency and the months it took their kids
to become comfortable. Forget the offensive problems and the lineup shuffling. That
"For three months, the Astros quietly believed they were constructed to
succeed in October. They weren't always certain they'd get through September, but
they felt good about October."
Rightfully so, the Cardinals also feel good about October, after breezing
through the season's first six months.
Could things have changed?
"After the Cardinals swiftly disposed of the Astros in Game 1, America's
best baseball town came down with a bizarre case of NFL fever," wrote St. Louis
columnist Bernie Miklasz. "The Astros were dissed and dismissed as a
threat, as if the NL Championship Series were a one-game NFL playoff, with the loser
"Thursday night in Game 2 at Busch Stadium, the Astros and starting pitcher
Roy Oswalt made it perfectly clear they're not going anywhere soon, except back to
Minute Maid Park ... Oswalt's fastball gas and slow-burning curve over seven innings
cooled the Cardinals' momentum, their seven-game winning streak, and possibly their
St. Louis suffered perhaps their biggest blow when hot outfielder Reggie
Sanders hurt himself pursuing a eighth-inning triple by Adam Everett.
Said Miklasz: "Call it symbolic. The hottest and mightiest Cardinal of the
2005 postseason departed on wobbly legs with lower-back pain. And with right fielder
Larry Walker aching all over and completely ineffective so far this postseason and
with Jim Edmonds yet to make an impact as a hitter in the NLCS, the Cardinals can't
afford to have their Mr. October become Mr. November -- as in Sanders' Superman
streak is over for the month."
And then there's Astros' postseason basher Chris Burke. He sent Atlanta home in Game 4 of the NLDS, homered in Game 1 of the NLCS, then had a triple, single, RBI and two runs scored in Game 2. Miklasz pointed out that prior to the playoffs, Burke had one RBI since Aug. 31.
"Can someone please take me back to the precise moment when Burke became Enos Slaughter?" wrote Miklasz.
Finally, Miklasz took exception to St. Louis' uncharacteristically sloppy play and worried that perhaps the Cardinals played their final game at Busch Stadium. The team is getting a new park for the 2006 season.
"It's wacko to even say it, but the Cardinals could have played their final game at Busch Stadium," he wrote. "Now, I don't really believe for a minute that the Cardinals will lose three consecutive games at Minute Maid, but mathematically it's possible. The Cardinals did get skunked (0-3) in Houston during the 2004 NLCS."
"The Cardinals had the NL's best road record (50-31) and won five of eight
games in Houston this season," Miklasz added. "The Cardinals remain fearless and formidable, if slightly dented. This is only one loss. This is their first defeat of the postseason. This is not the end of the world ... or the season."