Cardinals short hops

Cardinals short hops

HOUSTON -- The once seemingly indestructible St. Louis Cardinals are now on the verge of elimination after losing Game 4 of the NLCS to the Houston Astros, 2-1.

The loss puts the Cardinals in a 3-1 pit despite gritty pitching performances from Jeff Suppan (5 IP, one earned run) and Jason Marquis (3 IP, one run, zero earned).

St. Louis will have to win out in order to defend its National League Championship. To do that will mean defeating the Astros in Minute Maid Park, where they have not won during the playoffs in their last five games.

Behind the numbers
Albert Pujols, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI on Sunday, is hitting .429 in the series. No other Cardinal is even hitting .300. In addition, Pujols has hit safely in 15 of his 16 NLCS games and his two hits on Sunday gave him 25 in the NLCS. That moves him into first place on the Cardinals' all-time list, ahead of Willie McGee (24).

Vitals check
A look at key statistics through Game 4 of the NLCS.

Team stats

Digits Trend The Deal
ERA 2.64 (10 runs in 34 IP) Suppan and Jason Marquis combined for the best pitching performance of the NLCS, but it wasn't enough.
BA .214 (5-29 in Game 5, 26-121 series) Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, David Eckstein and Reggie Sanders are a combined 9-for-43 in the series.
Runs 1 The Astros continue to shackle the Cardinals' offense.
Errors 1 The Cardinals' defense hasn't gotten any better or any worse in the last three games.

Who's hot?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Albert Pujols 2-for-3, RBI (.429 series) Pujols continues to be the only consistent producer the Cardinals have in their lineup.

Who's not?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
John Mabry 0-for-4 (.167 series) Mabry, filling in at third base for Abraham Nunez, left four runners on base and grounded into a game-ending double play.

Frozen moment
After Jim Edmonds was tossed from the game in the eighth inning, John Rodriguez came in to pinch-hit with one runner on and the Cardinals down, 2-1, inheriting a 3-2 count from Edmonds. Rodriguez fouled off two pitches from Dan Wheeler and then hit one about 420 feet into center field (which is 430 feet deep). The speedy Taveras chased the ball down and made a tough catch to end the inning.

Second guess
Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi tossed Edmonds -- during his at-bat -- in the eighth inning for arguing a called strike two.

Last word
"I believe Major League Baseball is here in force. I know what they tell us about certain latitudes you get in postseason play because you're supposed to be emotional and try and win this.

"See what the explanation is, allowing Jim to get thrown out for the little that he did and the little that he said. I don't think he cursed anybody, from what I understand. But that's for the higher-ups to take care of."
-- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, on Jim Edmonds' ejection

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