Forum Spin Doctor
October 17, 2006
ST. LOUIS -- A big swing by Albert Pujols and another playoff gem from a rejuvenated Jeff Weaver put the St. Louis Cardinals on the cusp of the World Series.
Pujols' homer helped the Cardinals get to Tom Glavine at last, and Weaver shut down the New York Mets for a 4-2 victory Tuesday night and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NL championship series.
Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter can close it out Wednesday night in Game 6 at Shea Stadium, which would give St. Louis its second pennant in three years and a date with the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
Rookie right-hander John Maine is on the mound for the Mets, who hope to force a Game 7 at home.
Pujols' homer put St. Louis on the scoreboard and snapped Glavine's 22-inning scoreless streak that dated to his final regular-season start at Washington. Playing on a sore right hamstring, Pujols also went to his knees at first base for Shawn Green's one-hopper in the sixth.
The 40-year-old Glavine threw four-hit ball for seven sharp innings in Game 1, beating Weaver 2-0 on Carlos Beltran's two-run homer. But Weaver got the best of this matchup.
Cast off by the Los Angeles Angels this summer to make roster room for little brother Jered, the St. Louis starter kept Beltran and Carlos Delgado in check, yielding only two runs and six hits in six strong innings.
The Mets put runners at second and third with one out in the eighth, but Randy Flores retired Green on a shallow fly and rookie Adam Wainwright struck out Jose Valentin looking to preserve a two-run lead. Wainwright finished for his second save of the postseason.
In this postseason, Cardinals relievers have held opponents to 0-for-31 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position.
Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in three playoff starts. He tossed five innings of two-hit ball to beat San Diego 2-0 in Game 2 of the first round.
The game was delayed for a few minutes before the fourth while the grounds crew replaced first base, and Weaver walked his next batter, pitching carefully to Delgado. Green's one-out double kicked up chalk on the right-field line, and Valentin hit the next pitch just over a leaping Pujols at first base for a two-run double that put New York ahead.
Glavine, however, couldn't hold the lead.
Pujols pulled a 2-2 pitch barely over the left-field fence in the bottom half, his first home run since Game 1 against the Padres and his 12th overall in the postseason. Scott Rolen walked with two outs, Jim Edmonds singled and Belliard bounced a tying single through the right side as Delgado broke for first base instead of toward the ball.
The Mets have scored in 10 innings during the series, and seven times St. Louis has responded with at least one run in its next at-bat.
Glavine retired Weaver with the bases loaded to end the inning, but the Cardinals chased Glavine in the fifth and took a 3-2 lead.
David Eckstein blooped a leadoff single and scored from first on a double to right-center by Wilson, who began his career with the Mets in 1998 and is the stepson of former New York outfielder Mookie Wilson.
Glavine was lifted after an intentional walk to Pujols. The left-hander allowed three runs and seven hits in four-plus innings, failing to tie former Atlanta teammate John Smoltz for the most wins in postseason history at 15. Glavine threw only 40 of his 80 pitches for strikes.
Left-hander Pedro Feliciano escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, keeping the score 3-2. But Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sent the left-handed hitting Duncan up for Weaver in the sixth against Feliciano, and Duncan drove a 3-2 delivery down the right-field line to make it 4-2.
Notes: Eckstein appeared to hurt himself on a diving stop in the first. He was checked by La Russa and a trainer, but stayed in the game. ... Ex-Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, who led the team to its last World Series title in 1982, threw out the first pitch.