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Notes: Suppan makes impression10/12/2004 6:25 PM ET
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Apparently Jeff Suppan's performance in Game 4 of the National League Division Series caught the attention of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. If the National League Championship Series goes seven games, Suppan projects to start the deciding contest.
The announcement of Suppan for Game 3 -- and thus likely Game 7 -- and Jason Marquis as the Game 4 starter was the only surprise in the St. Louis rotation for the NLCS. Woody Williams will start Game 1, just as he did in the Division Series, with Matt Morris going in Game 2.
"Woody's on time," said La Russa. "I mean, he actually was ready to pitch Monday, so he's got a couple extra days. The game Thursday [Game 2] fits right into Matt's fifth day. Jeff's had the success on the road you don't want to ignore, so he gets that one. We like Jason pitching in their park -- he pitched a great game there in the middle of the season. So we think that's our best way to go."
Williams would have pitched a potential Game 5 of the Division Series if needed, but the Redbirds locked up the series behind Suppan's seven innings of two-run, two-hit ball. He's now set for the fifth game at Minute Maid Park in his hometown of Houston, in addition to the opener.
Morris gets Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 6, both of which would take place at Busch Stadium. Morris had much more success at home than on the road this season, though he pitched a solid game in Los Angeles in Game 3 of the NLDS. The series schedule also sets up so that he would get an extra day of rest between his two starts, which could be helpful for a pitcher who's had a tricky shoulder at times this year.
Williams and Morris were pretty well decided already, however. The question was between Marquis and Suppan -- which pitcher would have the potential for two starts and which would go only once. Marquis struggled in his first career postseason start, lasting only 3 1/3 innings in Game 2 against the Dodgers, while Suppan's first career playoff start was a success.
Second chance: There's one major difference between this year's Cardinals and the 2002 version that went to the NL Championship Series: the '04 Redbirds have Scott Rolen available. In 2002, Rolen missed the NLCS after suffering a shoulder injury in the Division Series against Arizona. After colliding with the Diamondbacks' Alex Cintron in Game 2 of the first round, the Cards' third baseman was out for the remainder of the postseason.
"It was frustrating, but it's one of those things; there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "I had an injury, a separated shoulder or whatever it was called, and I couldn't go out and play. That's the way it was.
"I was competing hard and Cintron was competing hard, and that's the way it went. You don't hang your head about getting a chance to play in the playoffs at any time, and right now is a great opportunity."
He said that the missed experience doesn't change the way he goes about this year's playoffs.
"I look at circumstances and the way they come out," Rolen said. "The game unfolds itself every day, and on that particular day, I got hurt. So I'm not gonna hang my head about that. Right now I'm healthy. I can go out and play in an LCS and get a chance to play for a World Series ring."
Familiar sight: This year's Redbirds have been an unusual team. Their offense is known far and wide, and the stats bear that out, having led the National League in runs scored. Yet they also led the league in fewest runs allowed, which might surprise some people who look at a pitching staff with few big names.
Another team that fit that same description -- and featured a few Gold Glovers, like these Cardinals -- was the 1995 Indians. Julian Tavarez was a member of that club, and he sees some definite similarities.
"This reminds me of the 1995 World Series Cleveland Indians," said Tavarez. "Great veteran players, a great team, great competition. Everybody [on the 1995 team] was like, 'We're gonna win.' Every time we played a three-game series, we knew that if we dropped the first game, we were gonna get the next two. That's how everybody feels over here."
Umpires announced: Major League Baseball has announced the umpiring crew for the NLCS. It is as follows: crew chief Tim Welke (in his fifth LCS), Eric Cooper (first), Gary Darling (second), Mike Winters (second), Angel Hernandez (fourth) and Ed Rapuano (fourth). Welke will call balls and strikes in Game 1 on Wednesday.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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