Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinals Find That Houston's Now a Problem

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cardinals Find That Houston's Now a Problem

Article excerpt

Awww, this is no fun. The National League Central has changed. There's been a rebellion. The Cardinals don't have the Houston Astros to kick around anymore.

Unlike 1996, the Astros are hitting back, and the bully has a black eye. Just the latest injury for the Cardinals. The shiner is being inflicted by a Houston team that got slapped around by the division-winning Cardinals last season, losing 11 of 13 games.

True, it is early. And the battered have all but placed hospital beds in the clubhouse. The Cardinals (2-7) are one large contusion. I would criticize them, but the pain of the insult might put yet another player on the disabled list. The Cardinals' roster is so depleted, we were treated to the vision of catcher Danny Sheaffer patrolling the vast green of center field during Saturday's 7-5 loss to the Astros at Busch Stadium. Fine. Manager Tony La Russa doesn't have all his chess pieces, but Houston must take advantage of the situation by winning games. And the Astros have snatched four of five from the Cardinals in the first two weeks. The Cardinals are Augusta National. The Astros are Tiger Woods. So far, no contest. "It was important to win some games, right from the start," general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. And no one is gloating. Ask the Astros about the Cardinals, and you hear adjectives normally reserved to describe the 1927 New York Yankees. Astros manager Larry Dierker was smoking a victory cigar after Saturday's win, but we should point out that it was a cheap cigar. The Astros aren't cocky, but they have gained needed confidence by going 7-4 in the first 11 games, all played against Atlanta or St. Louis, teams that dueled for the NL Championship last October. "The Cardinals are going to be tough to beat," Dierker said. "They think they can win, and they have half of their guys hurt, but they don't give up. But I also don't want to take away from what we've been able to do so far. I think our team will get better. We have the potential to improve. …

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