The Great American Baseball Trip

Game 23

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros

Wednesday, July 30, 1997 - 7:05pm


Houston, Texas

Pre-Game Report
 The Astros are one of the hottest teams in the majors since the All Star Break. But the Cardinals are right on their tales in chasing the Central division crown. Should be a barn burner.

Stadium Stats - Astrodome

Surface: Astroturf
Capacity: 54,370
Dimensions: Left Field: 325 feet, Center Field: 400 feet, Right Field: 325 feet

baseball diamond image

Team Profiles
Cardinals Logo

St. Louis Cardinals

 After winning just 62 games in 1995, the Cardinals captured their first National league Central Division title in 1996. While many teams made changes to their rosters throughout the off-season, the Cardinals lineup remained almost identical. So, it is not surprising that the leadership of manager Tony Larussa, is expected to lead the Cardinals to a repeat of their division title.

 The Cardinals have the most solid-four man rotation in the National League. Andy Benes, Alan Benes, Todd Stottlemyre and Donovan Osborne each won at least 13 games last season and come back even stronger and more experienced following playoff victories against the Padres and Braves. And, looking to fill the fifth spot will be Danny Jackson, who without injury and illness would not have lost his number one spot in the rotation. The Cardinals Bullpen, with the addition of left-handed middle reliever Lance Painter becomes even stronger now that it can rely on Rick Honeycutt and Tony Fossas for short relief. And, veteran closer Dennis Eckersley, in his last big league season, will look to lead this team towards a title.

 In addition to strong pitching, the Cardinals have the fastest team in the National League. Delino DeShields and Royce Clayton, each good for at least 30 stolen bases will be joined in the infield by veteran Gary Gaetti, who shows little sign of slowing down and was the team's most consistent hitter in 1996. And, outfielders Ron Gant, Ray Lankford, and Brian Jordan are all potential members of the 30/30 club.

Astros Logo

Houston Astros

 The Astros suffered one of the most visible late-season collapses in recent memory. After leading their division by two and a half games in late august, the Astros lost twelve road games in a row and finished behind the Cardinals... out of the playoffs. So, during the off-season General Manager Gerry Hunsicker made some major changes, including a 10 player deal with Detroit that brought some fresh faces to the struggling pitching staff.

 The big move from the mound was the off-loading of high salaried disappointment Doug Drabek. Instead, Daryl Kile and Mike Hampton, who combined for 38 victories last season will team with Shane Reynolds and Sid Fernandez to lead the Astros from the mound. In the bullpen, there is a fight between John Hudek, an all-star in 1994, and sophomore star Billy Wagner, for closer. Either way, the Astros have a strong closer -- and possibly even a talented fifth starter. Unfortunately, the Astros lack strong middle relief and will have keep their fingers crossed every time Jose Lima, Ramon Garcia, Donne Wall or Chris Holt takes the mound.

 Offensively, the Astros are still led by all-star infielders Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. And, the addition of 1992 Rookie of the Year Pat Listach should give some welcome relief to Bagwell and Biggio who tired near the end of last season after playing in every single game during the season (as they had in 1992 as well). Luis Gonzalez and Bob Abreu, have been added to the Astros outfield in hopes of providing some pop to the lineup. And, despite hitting a disappointing .263 last season, Derek Bell is ready to lead this team to the playoffs.

Post-Game Report
 While a monsoon brewed outside, the Astros whipped up quite a fury inside beating the Cardinals 7-4 at the Astrodome.

Check out all the details here, including my impressions of the stadium, batting practice, the team management I met, being up in the press box, the food, and the game and the fans

Highlights from the Bayou City

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