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Cardinals, Dodgers to face off
10/03/2004 5:04 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- Ready for a little déjà vu? The 2004 Cardinals have already joined the 1985 Redbirds as the only post-World War II St. Louis teams to win 100 games in a season. Now, they'll have the same opening playoff opponent as that pennant-winning team: the NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Astros' win over Colorado on Sunday afternoon locked up the National League Wild Card for Houston, which in turn locked in the Dodgers as a National League Division Series opponent for the Cardinals. The Cards have the best record in baseball, but two teams from the same division are not permitted to meet in the first round of the playoffs.

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So, instead of the Wild Card Astros, the Redbirds will face the division winner with the worst record, and that would be the Dodgers. Houston will play Atlanta in the other NLDS, with the two winners advancing to the League Championship Series.

St. Louis and Los Angeles will play the first game of the 2004 playoffs, Tuesday at 12:09 p.m. CT at Busch Stadium, with ESPN carrying the action live. Game 2 has a 7:19 p.m. CT Thursday first pitch at Busch, televised nationally by FOX.

Game 3 is set for Dodger Stadium on Saturday, with Game 4 there on Sunday, if necessary. If the series goes the maximum five games, the final contest would take place in St. Louis on Monday, Oct. 11. Times and TV arrangements have not been announced beyond Game 2.

Both in perception and performance, the Cards and Dodgers sport some similarities. Both teams feature powerful offense (over 200 homers each on the year), sound defense, a deep bullpen and good-enough starting pitching.

"We're very similar," said manager Tony La Russa. "I think they catch the ball well. Their defense is a plus. I think, especially with the addition of [Steve] Finley, they've got a lot of depth as far as dangerous, productive hitters. They've got a quality bullpen.

"They won their division, so their starting pitching must be good enough, although they've had questions, like people question ours, all year long. I think there are a lot of similarities."

Both teams also feature MVP candidates. Adrian Beltre led the Majors in home runs, while Albert Pujols banged out 99 extra-base hits. The two Dominican sluggers are the keys to their respective batting orders, and neither is much fun to face.

"We just have to come out and make good pitches," said Cards closer Jason Isringhausen. "They've got some professional hitters over there. They've got Beltre, and Finley's having a great year. We've got to make good pitches against them, and let our defense help us behind us. Just keep the ball in the ballpark."

The Dodgers and Cardinals played six times this year, all in the season's final five weeks. St. Louis swept Los Angeles at Busch in early September, then lost two out of three at Chavez Ravine a week later.

Woody Williams and Odalis Perez will face off in Game 1, with Jason Marquis taking the ball against Jeff Weaver in the second game. The L.A. opener features Matt Morris vs. Jose Lima. The Dodgers would then turn over to Perez for a fourth game, while the Cards will go with a four-man rotation and use Jeff Suppan. Game 5 would match Williams and Weaver.

Williams pitched twice against the Dodgers this year, holding them to four runs over 12 2/3 innings but taking two no-decisions.

"They've got a good group of guys, a good mix," he said. "Very similar to our ballclub, where we have some older guys and some younger guys. They definitely know what they're doing. We have to be on top of our game. I've seen the same team play for the last few years, and I've faced the hitters, so I kind of know what I want to do. It's just a matter of going out there and executing."

It will be only the second postseason series between the two tradition-rich franchises. St. Louis has won 19 pennants, and no National League team has more World Series titles than the Cardinals' nine. The Dodgers, with 22, have the most NL pennants of any team, in addition to six world championships.

The Cardinals beat the Dodgers in six games in the 1985 NL Championship Series, with Jack Clark's three-run, ninth-inning homer in Game 6 making the difference. That series also featured Ozzie Smith's famous game-winning homer in Game 5, remembered by the classic Jack Buck radio call: "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!"

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

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