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Munro to make first playoff start
10/14/2004 1:23 AM ET
ST. LOUIS -- While the rest of his teammates partied, Pete Munro packed.

The Astros were headed to the National League Championship Series, meaning Munro had work to do.

"They're expecting me to step up, too," Munro said amid the madness in the Houston clubhouse that night, when his Astros teammates were celebrating their Division Series win over the Braves at Turner Field. "It's a lot of pressure."

That pressure will hit its zenith on Thursday night, when Munro starts Game 2 of the NLCS at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals took Game 1 with a 10-7 victory on Wednesday night.

Never mind the nerves that will confront Munro as he faces the vaunted Cardinals offense in his first postseason appearance. Or the pressure to keep the score down against Cardinals starter Matt Morris, a guy who struggled this season but still managed to win 15 games and has made 10 postseason appearances.

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Munro's biggest obstacle may be rust. He was unused in the Division Series and has not pitched since Oct. 1, and that was his shortest start of the season, a 2 2/3-inning stint in which he allowed a run on six hits.

That means Munro will be pitching on 12 days' rest.

"It has been a long time," he said. "But I just continue to throw a lot of side bullpens to work on my location, which I have to say is my strength. And it could be a good thing. My arm's rested."

Try telling that to the oddsmakers. St. Louis is the clear favorite in Game 2.

But the Dodgers' Jose Lima proved that the Cardinals can be shut down. Lima showed it in Game 3 of the NLDS, when he tossed a five-hit shutout at Albert Pujols & Co. to force a Game 4. Munro was watching.

Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals
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

"It was definitely a positive thing," Munro said. "I mean, I guess me and Jose have similarities in a way that we pitch and our stuff, the way he changes speeds and has to locate. So we are looking at some [video] tapes, and Lima is one of them."

Anyway, the Astros have experience as the underdog.

"I believe that where we came from and where we are right now is an incredible achievement," Munro said of the Astros. "We've been the underdog before. You got nothing to lose, you know?"

That's been his mantra for years. Munro was a sixth-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 1993 but has since bounced to Toronto, Texas, Houston, Minnesota and then back to Houston.

He pitched in 59 games for the Astros in 2002 and 2003, but was released after the season and signed a minor league contract with the Twins. Munro went 6-3 in 10 starts at Triple-A Rochester before exercising an "out" clause in his contract.

The Astros came calling again. He joined the team in St. Louis and in 21 games down the stretch, 19 of them starts, Munro went 4-7 with a 5.15 ERA. Many of his starts were cut short by manager Phil Garner, who was looking for offense.

"I told Pete one of the things I might do is take him out of games earlier, and a lot of times it wouldn't reflect how he was pitching, it was that I wanted to try to get another at-bat and try to generate some offense from the nine-spot," Garner said. "Pete responded well to that. I would think as a starting pitcher, if I was one, I wouldn't want to be taken out of the game."

Munro didn't like it. But he accepted the strategy.

"I would say that I'm in a position in my career where I would have to be OK with that," he said with a smile.

He's in quite a position now. Given the injuries to Andy Pettitte and Wade Miller, the 29-year-old who grew up in the shadow of Shea Stadium in New York City finds himself starting in the NLCS.

"[I draw on] the journey that I've been through in this game, being released and traded a couple of times and, you know, just having to prove myself," Munro said. "It's been a good journey, but I don't think it's over yet."

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

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