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Suppan set for Game 7 start
10/20/2004 5:15 PM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The World Series is only one victory -- 27 outs, all told -- away, and just the sheer thought of it could be unnerving for Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan.

It's the biggest game of his career, his baseball life.

Untold thousands of Redbirds fans are praying and hoping and wishing his club will win Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday at Busch Stadium.

The pressure of having the weight of it all could be overwhelming.

Suppan's response? Nahhhh.

More than anything, the 10-year veteran was buoyed by just being in the spotlight after St. Louis downed the Houston Astros, 6-4, on Wednesday with a two-run homer by Jim Edmonds the game-breaker in a 12-inning struggle.

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"I don't think it gets much better than that," said Suppan, who pitched in Game 3 in Houston, giving up three runs over six innings, throwing shutout ball the last five frames.

"I'm looking forward to it. It's kind of, with the game tonight, it was just special. The way we've been playing all year as a team, you know, I think we have what it takes. I'm just going to get ready for tomorrow."

Suppan, 16-9 over the regular season, was with the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS last season, but didn't pitch. Still, he got a taste of the volatile atmosphere, and that's a plus.

For Suppan on Thursday, it'll be the same-old, same-old, lasting as long as he can and keep the relievers sitting. Nothing will change for him except the stakes.

"I still have to take my approach to the game the same way I would if we had a fresh bullpen," said the 29-year-old right-hander. "I'm going out there to throw zeros up when we score, short innings, always trying to keep the ball down.

"I think the difference between last year and this year is that I've been here since Spring Training -- to go through everything we've gone through as a team. And I think this is the best team I've played on," said Suppan. "We contribute in our own ways, and I think that's the beauty of it, because we're all pulling, we're all pulling the rope."

Suppan pulled the rug out from under the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS, sending the Cardinals to the matchup against Wild Card-winning Houston.

   Jeff Suppan  /   P
Born: 01/02/75
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

The Astros won 19 straight games at home during the regular season and took Games 3, 4 and 5 from the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park. But Busch Stadium is the center of the Cardinals universe now, where red-clad fans are boastfully biased.

There was yet another sellout crowd of 52,144 on hand Wednesday night "With the fans we have here, they've been with us all year round," said Suppan. "Wherever we go, they support us. It's going to be nice to go out and pitch in front of them tomorrow."

The tough part will be pitching 60 feet, 6 inches in front of powerful Astros hitters such as Carlos Beltran, who is batting at a .476 clip with four homers and 23 total bases.

Funny thing, both the Cardinals and Astros are hitting only .246 over the NLCS, so the pitchers rule overall. But Beltran can break your heart. In Game 3, Beltran walked in the first inning and later scored, doubled in the third and then struck out swinging against the veteran.

"I've played with him for four years," said Suppan, of his former Kansas City teammate. "What he's done is tremendous. I look forward to facing him. I got to face him the last couple games of the season and my last start. He's a very good player and does a lot of things well."

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

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