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Williams gets start in Game 110/12/2004 5:35 PM ET
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- For Woody Williams, there's a dichotomy of feelings as he prepares for his Game 1 start against the Astros in Wednesday night's opener of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals' right-hander, who beat the Dodgers in the first game of the NL Division Series last Tuesday, was born and raised in Houston where his family members are still avid Astros fans. But he has set down the rules should any of them show up at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night. The teams are heated rivals in the National League Central and have already played each other 18 times this season. "I left tickets for one of my family member's brothers before," Williams said. "I was pitching, and he's sitting there rooting for the Astros. The next time I put him way up on top. It's hard when you grow up in one place like both my wife's family and mine have. You're a fan for so long, and suddenly you have this opportunity. I can understand it. But as far as my family is concerned, they better not [root for the Astros]."
The Astros, of course, won their first postseason series in their 42-year history on Monday night with a 12-3 win in Game 5 over the Braves in Atlanta. This is their third shot in the NLCS and first since 1986. They are one of only five Major League teams never to have gone to the World Series -- Seattle, Tampa Bay, Colorado and Texas are the others.Williams is all too aware of the history. He's lived it, breathed it and freely admitted during Tuesday's interview session that he'd be rooting for the Astros if they didn't happen to be playing his Cardinals. "I'd be real excited, to tell you the truth," Williams said. "Growing up there, I was always an Astros fan and I've rooted for them my whole life," said the 38-year-old Williams, who also pitched at University of Houston. "Now I have the opportunity to help send them home before they get to the World Series. It's kind of bitter sweet to me. At the same time, right now I'm a Cardinals fan. So it's hard." The Cardinals were 8-10 against the Astros during the regular season, and Williams made three of those starts, finishing 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA.
The last time he pitched against Houston, the Astros were in a daily tussle down the stretch with the Giants and Cubs for the NL's Wild Card berth, a race they won by a game over the Giants on the final day of the regular season.Williams was pelted in a 10-3 loss on Sept. 27, allowing eight runs on 10 hits in only three innings. It was his last start of an 11-8, 4.18 ERA season. The teams know each other's personnel so well, it's going to be hard to fool anyone is this series, Williams said. Lifetime against the Astros, he's 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA. "I think these two teams are very, very similar," Williams said. "They have a lot of guys in their lineup who have been around a long time. They have a very good mix of older, veteran players as well as the young guys that are following in their footsteps. So one through eight, and with some of their pitchers even, it's going to be very difficult and I've got to be on top of my game. "It's very dangerous."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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