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Notes: Rotation has different look
10/12/2004 7:36 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The Houston Astros' playoff roster remained unchanged from the Division Series to the National League Championship Series, but the pitching rotation, at least the order of it, had a different look by the time the team arrived to Busch Stadium for a workout on Tuesday.

Manager Phil Garner opted to start right-hander Brandon Backe on short rest for Game 1 on Wednesday, and right-hander Pete Munro, who has not pitched since Oct. 2, will start Game 2. That decision was opposite from what was speculated after the Astros beat the Braves on Monday to clinch the Division Series, as Munro was presumably going to be the Game 1 starter.

But Garner, noting Backe's home numbers are far superior to his stats on the road, wanted to give the rookie at least one start at Minute Maid Park, where he is 4-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Away from home, he is 1-2 with a 6.52 ERA.

If Backe pitches Game 1, he'll be able to pitch on full rest in Game 5 on Monday, the third and final game of the NLCS to be played in Houston.

"He's pitched his best ball at home," Garner said. "I think this is the best way to go."


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Asked what he plans to do for Games 3 and 4, Garner simply held up an envelope with a slew of dates and names circled and scratched and circled again.

In other words, Garner is still weighing his options.

Obviously, there is no doubt that Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens are going to pitch Games 3 and 4. The decision-making centers around who starts which day.

If Clemens were to pitch Game 3 on Saturday, he would have five days of rest, one more than normal. Oswalt could pitch on Saturday, too, which would give Clemens one more day of rest for Sunday's Game 4. That may be the way Garner leans.

"That would be the reason, if [Clemens] would benefit from an extra day," Garner said.

Clemens and Oswalt both pitched on short rest in their most recent outings, and neither start was a cake-walk. Clemens was clearly exhausted after logging five innings in Game 4 of the Division Series, and Oswalt, although he held the Braves to two runs, needed 111 pitches to get through five frames in Monday's clincher.

Garner has no worries that the excitable and energetic Backe will struggle during his first start on three days' rest Wednesday.

"I don't think it matters with him," Garner said. "I think he could pitch on one day, two days. I think he can pitch tomorrow and he'll probably be ready the next day. He's been in the office a couple of times already saying he's ready to pitch in between starts."

"Three days' rest, four days' rest, five days' rest, doesn't matter," Backe said. "Just the big thing for me is just to calm my emotions down when I'm out there on the mound, to just concentrate on the task at hand. Take the challenge for each hitter, don't try and get too ahead of myself, and just do what I can do."

Familiar faces: Considering the Astros, like many teams, are not very good the first time they face a new team or a new pitcher, playing the Cardinals in the NLCS could be advantageous.

Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals
 GAME LOCATION DAY DATE TIME (ET) TV FINAL
Game 1 at St. Louis         STL 10, HOU 7
Game 2 at St. Louis Thu. Oct. 14 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 3 at Houston Sat. Oct. 16 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 4 at Houston Sun. Oct. 17 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 5* at Houston Mon. Oct. 18 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 6* at St. Louis Wed. Oct. 20 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 7* at St. Louis Thu. Oct. 21 8:00 p.m. FOX  
 * If necessary

The Astros certainly should not be jumping for joy that they are about to face arguably the best offensive club in baseball, not to mention one with nearly flawless defense, a stellar bullpen and three 15-game winners manning the rotation.

But there is somewhat of a comfort level that comes with setting up shop in the familiar surroundings of the visitors' clubhouse at Busch Stadium, home of a team the Astros beat five times in six meetings in September.

Even so, the Astros are approaching the NLCS with an overdose of humility.

"We swept them at home, but this is different," Carlos Beltran said. "Being in the playoffs is different. They will be coming, swinging the bat well. They have a lot of good hitters, a lot of power hitters. We just need to play the way we have been so far, have fun, do our jobs and if things are supposed to go our way, they will."

"They're a complete ballclub," Garner said. "They play good defense, they don't make mistakes. Their offense is pretty doggone good, they have speed, they have power, they put the ball in play. They can beat you in all those ways."

Sticking with what works: Teams can alter their postseason rosters from round to round, as long as position players replace position players and pitchers replace pitchers. Any replacements had to be on the active regular season roster by Aug. 31.

The Astros have no plans to change their roster for the NLCS.

"Barring any unforeseen problems between now and tomorrow, no," Garner said.

Garner will also continue to start Jose Vizcaino at shortstop, but he will also wait for an opportunity to ease Adam Everett back into the mix with an at-bat or two.

"I do not plan to start him," Garner said. "His role right now is as a pinch-runner and perhaps a defensive use in the latter part of games. If there's an opportunity to get him some at bats, I'd love to do that before I throw him into the fire."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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