for this game

Scott's three-run homer sends Cardinals to another late loss

Sep 24, 2006 - 3:05 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Luke Scott messed up, then stepped up.

Scott's second homer, a game-ending three-run shot, gave the Houston Astros a third straight victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-4, and kept alive their slim postseason hopes.

Aubrey Huff belted his 11th homer for the Astros (76-78), who moved within 4 1/2 games of the Cardinals (80-73) for first place in the National League Central Division and five games of Philadelphia in the wild card race. Houston will try for a series sweep Sunday with Roger Clemens on the hill.

"We're playing with desire and composure," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "We'll see what happens."

"Right now, we just have to take it one game at a time," Scott added. "We can't worry about what everybody else is doing."

In Friday's 6-5 triumph, Craig Biggio had the game-winning hit in the ninth, but Scott got the glory and some redemption one night later.

"We've had to pull off a couple of miracles the last two days."

Huff snapped a 3-3 tie with a solo shot to left against Jorge Sosa in the seventh.

Two frames later, St. Louis' David Eckstein stroked a liner to left against Dan Wheeler (3-5) with a runner on second and none out, but Scott misplayed the ball, allowing Jose Vizcaino to score the tying run.

"I couldn't tell if he could have made the play or not, but you've got to keep the ball in front of you in that situation," Garner said. "But he came back and did something to make up for it."

Wheeler picked up his teammate, inducing an inning-ending double play from Juan Encarnacion after walking two batters to load the bases with one out.

In the bottom half, Morgan Ensberg drew a leadoff walk against Tyler Johnson (0-4) and Lance Berkman followed with a bloop single. The lefthanded-hitting Scott then blasted Johnson's 1-1 pitch into the right field seats for his 10th home run and first career multi-homer game.

"I can't put it into words," Scott said. "I'm still like way up there. I just went up there looking to hit the ball hard. I knew I was facing a tough lefty (Johnson), and I just wanted to be focused."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa believed his team would avoid late-inning heroics from the Astros on this occasion.

"I thought when Encarnacion came up it was our time for a bloop," La Russa said. "I didn't think they hit a lot of balls hard, but they got some bloops.

"We had plenty of pitching to take care of this game, too."

Houston starter Roy Oswalt allowed three runs, nine hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out four. His counterpart, Jason Marquis was reached for three runs, nine hits and three walks in 5 1/3 frames.

"I didn't have good stuff today, but the defense played well behind me," Oswalt said. "I felt pretty gassed in the seventh."

Chris Duncan hit a home run for St. Louis, which has lost four straight and still has a magic number of five to clinch its third straight division.

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