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Beltran having tater-ific NLCS10/16/2004 11:47 PM ET
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Carlos Beltran's run through this postseason already had evolved from good to great. Now, it's approaching Bondsian.
In another Barry Bonds-like performance, Beltran homered for the fourth straight game, and went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a pair of runs in Houston's 5-2 win on Saturday in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
"I don't compare myself to Barry Bonds," Beltran said. "He's one of the greatest hitters in the game."
News flash, Carlos: So are you.
Beltran, who is hitting .500 with a ridiculous 2.143 OPS in the first three games of the NLCS, joined Jeffrey Leonard and Juan Gonzalez as the only players in history to homer in four straight postseason games. Gonzalez did it with Texas in the 1996 American League Division Series. Leonard accomplished the feat for San Francisco in the 1987 NLCS, six years before Bonds joined the Giants, and 15 years before Bonds set the single-postseason home run record.
That record is poised to fall. Beltran has seven home runs in these playoffs, one shy of Bonds' mark.
When Bonds went deep eight times in 2002, he hit No. 7 in Game 3 of the World Series and the Giants' 13th game of that postseason, and No. 8 came in Game 6. Beltran has belted his seven homers in just eight games.
"I will ride his coattails as far as they will take us," Jeff Bagwell said. "I've never seen anything like it."
How does it feel to be mentioned alongside Bonds, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Johnny Mize -- who are among the 15 players who homered in three consecutive postseason games, but never four?
"It's crazy, man," Beltran said. "But at the same time, I feel happy. God has given me this opportunity to perform and be able to come through in the playoffs. I'm very confident at the plate, and good things are happening to me."
He is looking a lot like Bonds these days. With Bagwell struggling in the No. 3 hole (he was 0-for-7 in the series before a third-inning single on Saturday), the Cardinals have at times pitched around the No. 2 hitter Beltran.
That's what appeared to happen in the first inning of Game 3. With Craig Biggio on after a leadoff single, Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan threw a first-pitch strike to Beltran. But the next four pitches were low and away, and Beltran walked before Bagwell grounded into a double play.
"Carlos has been swinging the bat pretty well," Suppan said. "Not that I was trying to walk him, but I was trying to be careful a little bit and it happened."
Still, the Astros scored in the inning. Beltran scored on Lance Berkman's game-tying RBI single, and Jeff Kent followed with a two-run home run for a 3-1 lead.
"It sounds a little awkward to say, because obviously they are two different players, but I actually think Carlos gives you more dimensions than Bonds does," said Astros closer Brad Lidge, who pitched the eighth with a one-run lead and the ninth with a three-run cushion, thanks in part to Beltran.
"Carlos is swinging the bat right now just like Bonds can, but Carlos is such a great threat defensively and on the base paths," Lidge said. "The kind of dimensions he gives you are pretty unique."
It was 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth when Beltran batted against reliever Dan Haren. He hit a 1-0 pitch the opposite way, clearing the yellow line near the visitor's bullpen. Berkman followed two batters later with another solo homer.
"It's something that I can't describe," Beltran said. "I'm going to the plate and I'm not thinking about anything. I'm just going up there trying to see the ball, trying to hit the ball."
Does he worry that, like Bonds, he will start to see fewer strikes?
"I've got to be aggressive," Beltran said. "I can't go up and think they're going to walk me. In my second at-bat, I was thinking they were going to walk me, and the pitcher threw me a couple of fastballs right down the middle of the plate and I took [them]. They're going to pitch to me."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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