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Cards 'pen shrugs off rough Game 310/16/2004 9:39 PM ET
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- While Ray King didn't put a positive spin on a hanging breaking ball to Lance Berkman -- the Houston slugger's second straight homer off the pitcher -- the burly St. Louis reliever still put a positive spin on Saturday's 5-2 defeat in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park.
"No panic, nobody's holding their heads," said King, as the Redbirds head into Sunday's Game 4 up, 2-1, in the best-of-seven series.
"They had a great streak going at home [20 wins in the last 21 games] and tonight they got key hits in key situations," said King. "I made a mistake to Berkman, couldn't get the breaking ball down. That's baseball."
Berkman hit 30 homers during the regular season and also victimized King with a two-run, eighth-inning blast in Game 1.
Saturday's contest was tight entering the eighth inning, but when Danny Haren allowed a solo homer to Carlos Beltran, and King was punished with another blast, the game was essentially over.
Cardinals fans might be wondering what's happening with their favored relievers, who posted an NL-best 3.01 ERA during the regular campaign but suddenly seem vulnerable.
Over the three NLCS games, the Redbirds crew has made 12 appearances but have allowed at least a run on six occasions.
King only allowed one homer over 62 innings this season, yet in this series he's given up two over two-thirds of an inning and has a 27.00 ERA. Haren has yielded three hits and two runs over 1 2/3 innings of relief for a 10.80 ERA.
What's the deal? Nothing, says King.
"You guys are the ones who bring up the homers," said the 30-year-old left-hander. "We don't dwell on it. Hopefully tomorrow we can get some runs early and move things totally our way. We're still up, 2-1. We'll go home, relax, have dinner and regroup Sunday.
"On the pitch to Berkman, if you hang a mistake pitch, it's gonna happen -- at this level they do that," said King. "If I'd given up another one [to next batter Jeff Kent], I'd be upset. I got away with one there."
Haren, who at 24 is one of the team's youngsters, was fairly low key after the loss, but he says the Cardinals must take care of business in Game 4 and not worry.
"It would be different if we were down, 2-1 -- we'd be in a tough hole," he said. "But we're not. This game is not a concern at all. And when we're pitching, you just try to put up zeroes, and it makes no difference if we're winning or losing. We're still a strong 'pen, and we're confident."
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said there is little margin for error when facing the Astros' power hitters, and Haren paid the price. Did he consider turning Beltran around at the plate?
"Yeah, we thought about it," said La Russa. "Then you face Bagwell, Berkman. But Haren had an impressive seventh. I think Beltran is hitting a better average [left-handed] than [from] the right-hand side ... so he got a fastball up in a fastball count."
Reliever Steve Kline, hoping his swollen right index finger tendon will heal in time to pitch Sunday or later in the series, was matter of fact after Saturday's contest, noting there were two things that mattered.
"There's two ways to look at it -- we didn't win the game, but we made [Roger] Clemens throw a lot of pitches  and [Astro reliever Brad] Lidge throw 42," said Kline. "We've seen them and know what they throw."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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