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Brace for live bats in Game 210/14/2004 2:43 AM ET
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Houston, we have liftoff. You too, St. Louis. If Game 1 is any indication, this National League Championship Series could be headed for astronomical offensive numbers. And we haven't even gotten to the cozy confines of Minute Maid Park yet. When the Cardinals beat the Astros, 10-7, in the NLCS opener Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, the two teams combined for the most runs in a nine-inning NLCS contest since Game 2 of the 1993 NLCS, a 14-3 victory for Atlanta over Philadelphia. With four long balls, the Astros came one homer shy of the NLCS record of five, set by the Cubs in Game 1 in 1984. But the Cardinals won behind a six-run inning in which two run-scoring plays stayed in the infield. No matter the mode, that's a lot of scoring.
Will that be the way this series unfolds? Should we buckle our seat belts for a wild merry-go-round ride with two teams very capable of scoring runs in bunches?"I hope not," said Houston's Jeff Bagwell. "It's nice when people are getting hits and all that, but it's tough when you get those kind of scores. We'd like to keep them down to three to four runs and see what we can do with our bats." The winner of Game 1 of the NLCS has gone on to advance to the World Series each of the last 11 times it's been played. If the Astros plan on reversing that trend, they probably should plan to keep the scoring to a minimum. Going toe-to-toe with perhaps baseball's most potent lineup is risky business. Keeping the Cardinals down can be done. The Dodgers' Jose Lima did it in Game 3 of the NL Division Series, shutting them out on five hits. But the Cardinals scored eight, eight and six runs in their three victories in that series, and that was more than enough against a Dodgers offense that struggled to get the clutch hit. The Astros will have Pete Munro (4-7, 5.15 in '04) take his turn at trying to quiet the Cardinals' bats in Thursday's Game 2. Munro hasn't pitched in two weeks, throwing only in bullpen sessions to keep his arm sharp and work on his location.
Don't expect Munro to thump his chest and roar like a wild man, but he plans on taking a page out of Lima's book when he faces the Cardinals' powerful offense."I guess me and Jose kind of have similarities in the way that we pich and our stuff, the way he changes speeds and has to locate," said Munro, who will be making his first career postseason appearance. "We are looking at some tapes, and Lima is on one of them." The Cardinals will counter with Matt Morris (15-10, 4.72 in regular season), their most experienced postseason starter with 10 appearances. He took the loss against Lima in Game 3 last week, giving up four runs in seven innings in the 4-0 defeat. He knows he's facing a formidable lineup, too, so he'll have to balance aggressiveness with wisdom to get the job done and help turn this series away from an offensive showcase. "You want to be smart, you also don't want to walk the ballpark either," Morris said. "You want to control the counts and attack these guys with your best stuff."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.