Cardinals short hops

Cardinals short hops

HOUSTON -- Houston pitching had shackled the powerful St. Louis lineup for the past three games ... all but one player, that is.

Albert Pujols came into Game 5 batting .429 in the series. On Monday night, Pujols delivered the biggest blast of the NLCS for St. Louis, a three-run home run in the ninth inning with two outs off Astros closer Brad Lidge to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win and send the series back to St. Louis.

Behind the numbers
Nos. 1 and 2 hitters David Eckstein and Jim Edmonds got on base five times during the game and were 3-for-7. The 1-2 hitters had been 2-20 previously in the series. It paid off in the ninth, when Pujols hit his game-winning homer.

Vitals check
A look at key statistics through Game 5 of the NLCS.

Team stats

Digits Trend The Deal
ERA 2.93 (14 runs in 43 IP) Chris Carpenter pitched a solid seven innings, but in a series dominated by pitching, four runs were nearly too many.
BA 9-for-36, .250 (35-for-157, .223 series) The Cardinals finally got the big hit they had been looking for the last four games.
Runs 5 The Cardinals' offense needs to come alive if they want to have a chance against Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens.
Errors 1 Hector Luna continues to be a liability on defense.

Who's hot?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds 3-for-7, 4 runs, 0 left on base Eckstein and Edmonds had been struggling and the Cardinals need them to get on base to start rallies.

Who's not?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Reggie Sanders 1-for-5, 2 strikeouts, 5 left on base (.200 this series) The Cardinals would like to give Pujols protection in the lineup at the No. 4 spot, but Sanders has not been able to provide that. After a career-best NLDS, Sanders hasn't driven in a run since Game 1 of the NLCS.

Frozen moment
Pujols' ninth-inning blast silenced the sold-out crowd at Minute Maid Stadium.

Great play
In the second inning, Andy Pettitte hit a tapper back to first base with Jason Lane charging home from third base. First baseman Pujols fired home to catcher Yadier Molina, who made a 180-degree spin to his right to tag out Lane.

Last word
"When you play nine, every once in a while, you get a miracle. It's happened a few times for us this year and it happened again tonight."
-- manager Tony La Russa

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