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Cards overpower Dodgers10/06/2004 12:04 AM ET
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Just like Jake and Elwood Blues, the Cardinals got the band back together just in time. With all eight regular position players in the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 10, St. Louis blitzed Los Angeles for an 8-3 win in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Albert Pujols, Larry Walker and Jim Edmonds all homered off Dodgers starter Odalis Perez, who lasted 2 2/3 innings. Walker added a second round-tripper off reliever Giovanni Carrara, and Mike Matheny also got in the act with a solo shot against Elmer Dessens, as St. Louis tied a postseason record with five long balls in one game. No team had ever hit five homers in a Division Series contest.
Edgar Renteria doubled in two runs, walked twice, stole a base and scored a run, while Scott Rolen walked twice and scored. The Nos. 2-6 batters in the Cardinals order combined to go 7-for-16 with four walks, four homers, seven RBIs and seven runs scored. St. Louis improved to 12-3 all time in Division Series play, including 7-1 at Busch Stadium.
"It looked really great today," said Walker. "And I'm hoping Thursday it will look just as good. One guy can make an out and there's still two, three, four, five guys behind him who can do some damage. Today Pujols did it, Jimmy, Matheny. Guys swing the bat on this team."
The Cardinals had limped into the playoffs with a 13-13 record over the season's final four weeks, inciting concern among fans as to whether they'd be ready for the postseason. But one constant in those games was a shifting lineup, with many regulars resting and/or recovering from injuries. Now that the games matter again, all eight starters are back on the National League's most prolific offense.
"When you've got two or three guys you've got to rely on every day, it makes it tough on those guys," Edmonds said. "When you've got five or six, or seven or eight, it just makes it easier for everybody to settle down and do their jobs. It's nice when Albert and Scotty [Rolen] do their thing, but when you can get it from Larry and Edgar and myself and Reggie [Sanders], it takes a lot of pressure off Albert and Scotty. That's how we've been playing all year."
Edmonds' two-run blast may have been the biggest hit of the game, chasing Perez and giving the Redbirds a six-run lead. It was the eighth career postseason home run for the center fielder, including six in Division Series play. He entered the series in a 1-for-29 funk and struck out in his first at-bat before crushing a pitch from Perez 389 feet into the home bullpen in right field.
Edmonds added a single in the seventh to go 2-for-4. He's a lifetime .341 hitter in the playoffs, .370 in the Division Series round. Having the 42-homer slugger back in form would be a welcome development for St. Louis.
"I feel a lot better," he said. "You've got to play out two weeks of games that are kind of meaningless, taking every other day off. So it's nice to get in there and play with something on the line and know you're gonna play every day."
Woody Williams, a late choice to start Game 1, labored through six innings, but kept a powerful Dodgers offense from mounting any serious threat. A team that topped 200 homers in the regular season didn't put any in the seats against the veteran right-hander. And when situations got a bit hairy, Williams was able to make his best pitches and avoid serious trouble.
"I threw a lot of pitches, but I give credit to the Dodgers for making me get to the high pitch count I was at after six innings," he said. "They're a professional team. They know how to hit. They know what I'm gonna try to do and they're gonna try to keep me from doing it."
The Dodgers were unable to move a runner into scoring position with fewer than two outs against Williams. He permitted his share of baserunners -- nine, all told -- but the number that mattered was two runs. Going back more than half of the regular season, the Cardinals are 17-3 in Williams' past 20 starts.
The steady 38-year-old doesn't dominate, but his team will take it.
"Woody is our true veteran on our staff," said Ray King, who pitched a perfect eighth. "He's a guy that's been there before. He's our key veteran. He came in and set the tone early. I think the biggest inning was when we got that five-spot and he came in and put up a zero. When you put up a zero after you score, that tells a lot. Now you put the pressure back on them."
It took Williams 116 pitches to get through his stint, after which he handed the ball over to the league's best bullpen. And despite Los Angeles' proclivity for late comebacks, the St. Louis 'pen held the fort.
Kiko Calero pitched a perfect seventh in his first career playoff appearance. King, a left-hander, carved up the heart of the Dodgers order -- including righty slugger Adrian Beltre -- in the eighth. And Jason Isringhausen closed it out to cap off a textbook Cardinals win. Only Tom Wilson's solo homer against Isringhausen marred what was otherwise a near-perfect bullpen performance.
"They've been solid all year," Williams said. "It's nice to be able to give the ball to those guys. All those guys out there can do the job, and they have been all year."
Game 2 of the Division Series is set for Thursday night at Busch Stadium, with a scheduled 7:19 p.m. CT first pitch. Jason Marquis will pitch for the Cardinals against Jeff Weaver.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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