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Cards unable to break through

Cards unable to break through

ST. LOUIS -- David Eckstein had to chuckle for a second. Asked how frustrating it was to not get on base with the team's best hitter, Albert Pujols, looming close behind in the batting order, Eckstein said he knew he was as guilty as anyone in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

"My job is to get on base so he has a chance to get a hit in any situation," said leadoff hitter Eckstein, who went 0-for-3 with a walk. "Tonight I was not able to do that. When he has the bat in his hand, you never know [what might happen]."

The Cardinals finished the game 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and twice left runners in scoring position with Pujols on deck. The team's only run of the night? It came from Pujols on his sixth career NLCS home run.

Eckstein and No. 2 hitter Jim Edmonds were a combined 1-for-7 with a walk and a single between the two of them.

"An out's an out," Edmonds said. "We all make outs. It doesn't make it any more frustrating that anybody's on deck. It's the fact that you make outs with guys on base, knowing that's your only chance right there."

Their difficulties largely were due to Houston starter Roy Oswalt, who had the Cardinals miffed all night with his heat.

"Stuff-wise, that's as good as it gets in this league," Edmonds said. "The combination of him and Brad Ausmus behind the plate is just a tough combination. Brad knows what he's doing, moving the ball back and forth, fastballs away and cutters. It's one thing to move the ball around, but it's another thing to execute the pitches."

Oswalt finished the night with six strikeouts, but none compared to the groundout he forced Edmonds into for the last out of the seventh inning. With Houston up, 2-1, and runners on first and second with two outs, he got Edmonds to chase a slider.

"With Edmonds up and Pujols on deck, two men on, you've got to get that out," Oswalt said. "I was able to throw a back-door slider and he went out to get it and rolled over it."

Oswalt had a 5.21 ERA against the Cardinals during the regular season, but has honed in during his last two starts. He has allowed just two earned runs in his last 14 innings pitched against the Cardinals.

"I thought he was as composed as I've ever seen him," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "He was locked in and threw the ball extremely well."

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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