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Cardinals' defining moments
10/03/2004 10:21 PM ET
First place: St. Louis took over first place for good on June 11 when the Cardinals beat the Rangers, 12-7, to improve to 35-26.

Offseason moment: The Cardinals pulled off the biggest trade of the Winter Meetings, sending J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero to Atlanta for Jason Marquis, Ray King and Adam Wainwright. Not only did Marquis (15 wins) and King (86 appearances, 2.61 ERA) play key roles, but the money the team saved allowed it to plug more holes by signing Jeff Suppan and Reggie Sanders. The move benefited both teams, with Drew and Marrero having excellent years in Atlanta.

In-season moment: Jaws dropped around baseball when the National League's scariest lineup added a guy who's been terrifying pitchers for more than a decade. The acquisition of Larry Walker on Aug. 6, for Jason Burch, Chris Narveson, and Luis Martinez, was a master stroke by general manager Walt Jocketty. He even got Colorado to pick up a hefty portion of Walker's salary. Walker immediately was slotted into the No. 2 position in the batting order and made a formidable offense even more powerful.

Game: On July 20 at Wrigley Field, Matt Morris was rocked for seven runs without making it out of the second inning. Yet the Cardinals roared back with nine runs over the final four frames to beat the Cubs, 11-8, in the final head-to-head meeting between the two teams. Albert Pujols ripped five base hits, including three home runs, as St. Louis stretched its lead over Chicago to 10 games and essentially put the NL Central title out of the Cubs' reach.

MVP: Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds had huge, league MVP-caliber seasons, but the guy who was there day in and day out was Pujols. He pounded out 99 extra-base hits, posted a .330/.413/.655 line with 46 home runs, 123 RBIs and 131 runs, and played near Gold Glove-quality defense. Rolen was the key figure in the first half, and Edmonds was the team's best player as it built an insurmountable lead in July and August. But Pujols was the man all year long.

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

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