Cardinals short hops10/20/2004 9:22 PM ET
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- After a real bear of a game, it's suddenly a bull market for the Cardinals' bullpen.
The relievers pitched poorly in the three losses in Houston -- i.e. Jason Isringhausen giving up a three-run, ninth-inning homer to Jeff Kent in Game 5, Julian Tavarez issuing a game-winning homer in Game 4 -- for a combined 7.54 ERA and two losses. Yet in the vital Game 6 at Busch Stadium, the bullpen proved its mettle.
Starter Matt Morris left after five innings holding a 4-3 lead, and with the Astros having blasted 13 homers in the National League Championship Series, the lead, the game and a ticket to the World Series were in jeopardy on every pitch.
Bullpenners Ray King, Kiko Calero, Isringhausen and Tavarez were steadfast to the end, however, helping to propel the Cardinals into Thursday's deciding Game 7 at Busch, where St. Louis is still unbeaten in the series.
Izzy made it interesting in the ninth by hitting leadoff batter Morgan Ensberg, who later scored on Jeff Bagwell's single to tie it at 4, but Tavarez -- broken left hand and all -- threw probably the two best innings of his life, blanking Houston in the 11th and 12th frames to earn the victory.
A look at key statistics through Game 6 of the NLCS.
||Stats are great at home, Houston was a different story
||Offense had Minute Maid meltdown, but is cookin' at home
||Cardinals comfy at Busch with two more homers
||So far, so perfect -- no miscues in 12 straight playoff games
||.500 BA, 4 HR, 8 RBI
||The man seems unstoppable, had three more hits
||2-1, 3.60 ERA
||Despite broken hand, slammed door on Astros
||.125, 0 HR, 0 RBI
||Went 0-for-4 on Wednesday, now 2-for-16 in NLCS
||.250, 2 HR, 4 RBI
||0-for-6 with two Ks on Wednesday
Behind the numbers
It's where no Cardinals player has gone before. When Pujols blasted a two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the first with Tony Womack aboard, it marked his fourth NLCS home run (tying an LCS mark) and sixth in the postseason. No St. Louis player has hit more than three postseason homers prior to this year. Pujols' eight NLCS RBIs broke Tommy Herr's Redbirds mark of six, set in 1985. Pujols has also set an NLCS record with 25 total bases in the series.
Shortstop Edgar Renteria made a leaping, one-handed grab of a Craig Biggio liner in the third inning. At the height of his grab, Renteria's body duplicated Michael Jordan's famed shadow image of the superstar going for a dunk. Renteria fittingly halted the Astros' rally at one run with a frame-ending catch of a Jeff Kent liner. Edgar wasn't done. He made a sliding stop of an Adam Everett grounder for a forceout in the fourth.
Pujols made a crucial play in the third inning after doubling off Pete Munro. On a deep fly to left by Jim Edmonds, Pujols elected to try for third. He just made it ahead of Biggio's throw, while Scott Rolen, on first with an infield single, raced to second. Both then scored on Renteria's single up the middle.
Baserunning boo boo
Pujols doubled in the third, then tried to score on a Rolen ricochet off the wall that rolled into short left field. The gamble didn't pay off this time, as Astros shortstop Jose Vizcaino threw to catcher Brad Ausmus, who made a lunging tag as Pujols -- ignoring coach Jose Oquendo's stop sign at third -- tried to slide inside the baseline. It halted a possible two-out rally, a Cards speciality this series.
The Cardinals have yet to commit an error this postseason, going 10 games without a miscue. St. Louis has now gone 12 straight postseason games without an error dating back to the 2002 NLCS, when Renteria made an error in Game 3 vs. San Francisco.
"We finally get to play in Game 7. I mean, it's better than going home." -- Edmonds
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.