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Beltran stays hot at plate in NLCS
10/13/2004 11:43 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- A day off and a shift of venue did nothing to cool off Carlos Beltran.

"As a player you get hot, you get cold," said Beltran, the Astros' superstar center fielder. "Right now has been a perfect time for me to get hot."

He got hot in the National League Division Series, and he stayed hot in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night at chilly Busch Stadium.

Beltran became the eighth player to homer in his first NLCS at-bat with his two-run shot in the first inning, his fifth in six postseason games this year. He is the second Astro to accomplish the feat, joining Glenn Davis in 1986.

Beltran finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored, but it was not enough to beat the Cardinals, who rode a six-run sixth inning to a 10-7 win.

"I've been able to get on base, been able to produce for the team," Beltran said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to get back and win that ballgame."

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In six playoff games, Beltran's first foray into the postseason, he leads Houston hitters with a .444 average, five home runs, 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored. Seven of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases.

He's on pace to make history. Barry Bonds set the all-time record for home runs in a single postseason when he hit eight for a 2002 Giants team that went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Anaheim's Troy Glaus hit seven homers that year, second-most all time.

Beltran's fifth homer of this postseason came early in Wednesday's game. Craig Biggio hit a first-inning single to set the table and Beltran cleared it, lining a two-run homer to right field off St. Louis starter Woody Williams.

"To me, it means a lot, because it gave us a two-run lead," Beltran said. "But at the same time, you're right, they've got a real good offense and you can't stop scoring runs. They can get back in two swings, just like that."

Turns out, that's just what the Cardinals did.

Albert Pujols countered with a two-run shot in the bottom of the first to tie the game, and the Cardinals pushed ahead for good in the sixth. Beltran singled and scored on Lance Berkman's two-run homer in the seventh inning, but St. Louis by then had a healthy lead.

Facts machine
Carlos Beltran became the eighth player to ever homer in his first NLCS at-bat when he connected off Woody Williams in the first inning tonight. He becomes the second Astro to accomplish the feat, joining Glenn Davis in 1986:
Player Game Date (Inning)
Joe MorganGame 1Oct. 7, 1972 (1st)
Bob DernierGame 1Oct. 2, 1984 (1st)
Rick SutcliffeGame 1Oct. 2, 1984 (3rd)
Glenn DavisGame 1Oct. 8, 1986 (2nd)
Mark GraceGame 1Oct. 4, 1989 (1st)
Orlando MercedGame 3Oct. 12, 1991 (1st)
Mike LowellGame 1Oct. 7, 2003 (11th)
Carlos BeltranGame 1Oct. 13, 2004 (1st)

"He's on fire," Astros starter Brandon Backe said of Beltran. "That was huge, for somebody like me who's never been in a game like this before, to get a lead. There's somebody in our lineup who's going to be on fire. And there's probably going to be two or three guys.

"You can't ask about anything more from our offense today. We ran into some unlucky breaks, to tell you the truth."

Backe and a trio of Houston relievers could not hold the lead.

"Today went their way and there's nothing we can do," Beltran said. "We have to come back tomorrow and try to take one out of two [in St. Louis]."

That's the goal now. Right-hander Pete Munro, making his first start since Oct. 1, will start Game 2 for Houston and some early run support would help. The Astros will finally turn to co-aces Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt in Games 3 and 4.

Does Beltran think the pitching setup puts the Astros in a hole?

"I don't think so," he said. "I think that, like I said, we were doing a real good job the last series against the Atlanta Braves, and we were just going to go out there and continue to play the same way we've been doing without pressure, having fun, letting things happen."

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

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