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Cards hope it's better at Busch
10/25/2004 9:45 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- For the St. Louis Cardinals, the search is on for something to build on, something to hold onto, something, anything positive.

Here it comes: They're home.

The Cardinals are 6-0 at home in the 2004 postseason. Unfortunately for their current circumstances, they are 1-6 on the road, the last two road losses leaving them 0-2 in the World Series.

And it's worse than that in a way for the Cardinals. They have not lost two games to a team playing flawlessly. They have lost two games to the Boston Red Sox, who committed four errors in each of those games.

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The Cardinals showed an ability to come off the deck in Game 1, but apart from that, their showing in Boston was not adequate to the task at hand. The Redbirds, baseball's best team in the 2004 regular season, had problems with their starting pitching and problems with their relief pitching, and -- perhaps worst of all, they did not jump all over Boston's miscues. The Red Sox were not made to pay for their sins. The Cardinals did not, in other words, looked much like themselves in the cozy confines of Fenway Park.

But the next three games of the Series -- if there are to be three more games -- are scheduled for Busch Stadium. The Cardinals were not baseball's best team at home this season. That honor went to the Yankees, but look what it did for them. The Cardinals were very good everywhere: 53-28 in St. Louis, 52-29 everywhere else. That was baseball's best road record, but again, that offers no current solace.

"We like playing on the road," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We love playing at home. So like versus love. Our fans are going to be crazy and look to give us a boost. But we are disappointed we didn't get a game [in Boston] or more."

Well, that's a start. And a start, a competent start, is exactly what the Cardinals now require. Woody Williams was walloped by the Red Sox in Game 1. Matt Morris was not a great deal better in Game 2. In the first two games of the World Series, Cardinals pitchers, who generally rely on command, issued 14 walks. The Cardinals have all sorts of offensive and defensive assets, but even they could not withstand these performances.

   Jeff Suppan  /   P
Born: 01/02/75
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Fortunately, back home on the banks of the Mississippi, the Cardinals' scheduled Game 3 starter is Jeff Suppan, who has been their most consistent starter in this postseason.

Suppan, a 16-game winner this season, flopped as a second-half acquisition with the Red Sox last year. Now, he is the Cardinals' best hope of getting back into this Series against the Sox. He has a chance to be unpopular in Boston for the second straight season for completely different reasons.

Suppan came up originally with the Red Sox before returning briefly to Boston in 2003. He's obviously found a happier professional home in St. Louis.

"I definitely feel part of the Cardinals organization," Suppan said Monday. "The fans have been great, the organization has been great. It's definitely nice for me to be -- from day one -- be a Cardinal, going through Spring Training with everybody, and going through all the ups and downs of the season. I feel more a part of this team right now.

"As far as being a player with the Red Sox, coming up through the organization, it was actually more strange for me to go back there last year than it is for me to throw against them this year. It was a feeling for me being there last year. I was 20 years old, 21, 22, coming up through that organization, and going back and seeing ushers that I hadn't seen forever and whoever I hadn't seen so long, that part was strange, but it was a good experience, and it actually is helping me this year, being able to stay focused on what I have to do."

For the Red Sox, there will be Pedro Martinez, who, if he is still Pedro Martinez, is due. He did not win either of his starts against the Yankees in the ALCS. But he is still capable of a dominant outing.

   Pedro Martinez  /   P
Born: 10/25/71
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Martinez can take solace in the notion that there probably will not be 55,000 people shouting "Who's your daddy?" at him as there were in Yankee Stadium. This being predominantly a Missouri crowd, it is possible that the fans might yell "Show me your daddy" at him, but the venom will simply not be the same.

Busch Stadium will be a sea of red this week, although that won't exactly terrify the Red Sox, either. Still, the Cardinals must hope that friendlier territory will lead to happier results.

"We get to go home to a place we feel comfortable and a place we played well all year," catcher Mike Matheny said.

"I think it's a big edge," La Russa said Monday. "We just came from Fenway Park. We were in Minute Maid [Park], where their fans were helping the Astros. There's no doubt that the home crowd being excited pumps up the home team. It gives you an edge. So we'll see if we can take advantage and make that edge count for more runs than the other club. Our fans make us excited."

The other advantage -- and La Russa frankly acknowledges it as an advantage -- is the designated-hitter rule being removed in the National League city. The Red Sox will put their regular DH, David Ortiz, at first base, but that removes Kevin Millar from the lineup. And while Ortiz -- the MVP of the AL Championship Series -- has had a magnificent postseason while DHing, he is not, to put it mildly, an accomplished first baseman.

"I think as a matter of making a general statement, the National League club has the advantage," La Russa said. "I think we're going to lose some of that because Pedro Martinez has pitched in the National League and is used to handling the bat and doing all the things a National League pitcher has to do. I don't know how much of an athlete he is, but if he can handle a bat it's not significant. I think Ortiz has played first base before, but that's not his favorite position. But you can't try to hit ground balls to first.

"But it's an advantage for us, just like the crowd is. It isn't more important -- the important advantage, if our hitters had good at-bats against Martinez and Suppan was sharp against their hitters, that's the edge we really need."

For baseball's best team during the 2004 regular season, that strong, steady performance from the starting pitcher was the edge that was missing in the first two games. And it is the edge that is desperately needed now.

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