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Weaver set for unfinished business
10/06/2004 5:35 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Weaver is a Dodger. But there's a Yankees World Series jersey hanging on the door of his bedroom as a reminder of a postseason gone awry.

So, while the thought of facing the St. Louis Cardinals lineup is scary enough, it's not the only psychological hurdle Jeff Weaver needs to clear for Thursday night's Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

There's still the matter of last year. Then a Yankee, Weaver fell out of the starting rotation, then literally out of sight. He pitched one inning over the last two weeks of the regular season, didn't touch a ball during the Division and League Championship Series and had no reason to believe that would change in the World Series.

It changed. When Game 4 of the 2003 World Series reached the 11th inning, Yankees manager Joe Torre called on Weaver, who retired the Marlins 1-2-3 in the 11th, then served up a walk-off, game-winning home run to Alex Gonzalez leading off the 12th.

The Yankees went on to lose in five games and Weaver was shipped cross-country in the Kevin Brown winter trade. Back home, the Southern California native spent the 2004 season dispelling the knocks that hound a former first-round pick with a career losing record.

The Dodgers will tell you that he's shown he can win in the big leagues, that he finally trusts his stuff. Whether he's an ace who can handle big-game pressure, we'll all know a little better after Thursday night.

But Weaver will tell you that last year's World Series has left him with unfinished business.

"I definitely still think about it and it's in the back of my head and it helps me so I don't do it again," said Weaver, who never adjusted to a relief role in New York.

"I still have my World Series jersey hanging on the door to remind me what happened in that series and use it as motivation to get back and not let it happen again. When it happens, you're obviously upset it turned out the way it did. At the same time, it was my first time in that situation on that stage and you can take a positive out of it as motivation."

After watching Odalis Perez get torched by the potent lineup of the St. Louis Cardinals, Weaver knows Thursday night won't be any easier than last year's World Series.

"You saw what the Cardinals are all about," he said in the wake of their record-breaking five home runs. "They look for that big inning and make something happen to break it open. Obviously, you've got to stay aggressive with these guys, you can't fall behind and get into hitters' counts and let them free-swing."

It's not a matter of exploiting weaknesses, because there aren't many. Batters two through six in the order -- Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Jim Edmonds -- went 7-for-16 with four homers, four walks and seven RBIs in the opener.

It's more like damage containment.

"You know they're going to score runs," said Weaver. "There's no way of getting around that. It's just a matter of keeping it small, keeping us within reach and, you know, allowing our offense not to have so much pressure to have to come back from so much runs. The Cardinals have done this all year long. They wait for that one pitch. If they get it, they don't miss it. They're all very disciplined hitters and know what they're doing up there."

Unlike virtually every Dodgers postseason team in the last 40 years, this one doesn't have an obvious ace. Perez got the call for the opener instead of Weaver because he finished the season stronger, as Weaver's September ERA of 6.03 could be an indication that a 220-inning season has taken its toll.

Weaver had 25 quality starts, tied for second in the Major Leagues, but neither of his games against St. Louis qualified. In a pair of no-decisions, he allowed nine earned runs in 13 innings. He was particularly terrorized by Edmonds, who doubled three times against Weaver Sept. 5 and slugged a three-run homer off him Sept. 11. But in that second start, Weaver also mowed down 16 of 17 batters at one point.

"I'll look at the film of the games I threw against them this year and I'll study that, go over it with our catcher, and hopefully just come up with an approach that we feel best fits my abilities and best chance to get them out," said Weaver.

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


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