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Cardinals short hops
10/13/2004 9:22 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals haven't won the World Series since 1982, and haven't even been there since 1987.

But it is clear that the current group, which defeated the Astros, 10-7, on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, is the most talented and powerful St. Louis team since the Gas House Gang of the 1930s with a lineup built around Pepper Martin and Joe Medwick.

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The 1980s edition that won three pennants under manager Whitey Herzog was built around speed and line-drive hitters, with Vince Coleman stealing bases and Ozzie Smith contributing his daily acrobatics at shortstop. Busch Stadium had an artificial turf field back then, and Herzog took full advantage of it.

Well, the turf is gone, and this season the Cardinals are exhibiting a completely different brand of baseball.

Vitals check
A look at key statistics through Game 1 of the NLCS.

Team stats

Digits Trend The Deal
ERA 7.00 Because of the offense, pitching just good enough to stifle Houston
BA .353 Five extra-base hits paces big comeback and 12-hit effort
Runs 10 Six runs or more in four of their five playoff games, 32 total
Errors 0 Defensive play is flawless, like it has been virtually all postseason

Who's hot?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Larry Walker .600 (3-for-5, double, triple, RBI Infield single, RBI double, triple add to his postseason luster
Albert Pujols .667 (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB) Has stimulated the offense with homers in last two postseason games

Who's not?

Player Digits Trend The Deal
Scott Rolen .250 (1-for-4, RBI, BB) RBI single was first of playoffs, still 1-for-16 in postseason
Woody Williams 6.00 ERA Hangs on for win despite allowing two-run homers to Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran

Behind the numbers
Rolen has walked seven times in the postseason. Thus, even though he's been slumping, he still has been effectively annoying for the opposition at the plate.

Frozen moment
With one out in the first and the Astros leading, 2-0, Walker hit a frozen rope to right field. Lance Berkman came in to make the catch, but he lost the liner in the lights. It eluded his glove and skipped to the fence for a triple. Pujols followed with a two-run homer to tie the score.

Slick move
When Williams looked shaky early, manager Tony La Russa kept him in even though the Cards trailed, 4-2, with one out in the fourth inning. Williams retired eight of the final nine batters he faced, and was the beneficiary of his team's six-run, sixth-inning rally.

Cards then, Cards now
The 1982 team that defeated Milwaukee in seven games to win the World Series won 92 games and hit only 67 homers during the regular season, led by George Hendrick with 19. The 2004 Cardinals won 105 games and hit 214 homers during the regular season, led by Pujols with 46.

Game 1 winners are usually NLCS winners
The winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the NLCS in the last 11 postseasons. The Cardinals won Game 1 in 1982 and 1987 and went to the World Series, but they lost Game 1 in 2000 and 2002. Well, you know the rest of that story.

Last word
"It's a big win. You have the fans here, you have the fans going when you start something going. I just try to see the ball. I don't try to change the program or anything I do. I just try to go out there and play hard after I cross the white lines." -- Pujols

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

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