HOUSTON — In the hallways and the interview room and their clubhouse at Minute Maid Park on Monday night, the Houston Astros tried to deny the emotions that had staggered them, tried to look ahead to Game 6 of the National League championship series instead of behind at Albert Pujols' ninth-inning three-run home run that gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory in Game 5.
"It hurt for one minute," said Houston owner Drayton McLane. "We are still in the lead" three games to two in the best-of-seven series. "This will make it that much more meaningful when we win."
With two out, the Cardinals rallied off Houston closer Brad Lidge with a single by David Eckstein and a walk by Jim Edmonds before Pujols' blast.
"The mistake we made is walking Edmonds," said Astro Manager Phil Garner.
"You have to let Edmonds hit the ball. You can't walk him and Brad knows that."
Encircled by a media mob in the clubhouse, Lidge exhibited resolve rather than regret.
"This stings a little," he said. "Afterward, my teammates had nothing but hugs for me.
"When I wake up [Tuesday], I will put it behind me. That's my job as a closer. If I couldn't put stuff like this behind me, I wouldn't last long in this league."