10/15/2004 8:05 PM ET
NLCS Game 3 Hotsheet
10 things to chew on before Saturday's game
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
|Houston's Carlos Beltran has homered in the first inning of both NLCS games. (Al Behrman/AP)
HOUSTON -- The National League Championship Series has moved to Minute Maid Park, where the Cardinals and Astros worked out Friday afternoon in preparation for Game 3 at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. Here is what people around the NLCS are talking about:
1. A Royal pair
The first question of the day went to Jeff Suppan, who was asked what he plans to do about postseason sensation Carlos Beltran. "I played with him four years at Kansas City," said Suppan, the Cardinals' Game 3 starting pitcher. "He's a much better hitter now, and he was a great hitter then. We're constantly talking about how to face guys, and his name always comes up." Beltran homered in the first inning of Games 1 and 2, and already has six long balls in these playoffs.
2. Beltran and beyond
Speaking of Beltran, he was the last Astro to leave the clubhouse after Game 2, and on the way out he talked to MLB.com's Bill Ladson about his future beyond this season as an eligible free agent this winter. "That's a question I will answer after the season when I make my decision," Beltran said. "If I hadn't played in the National League, I wouldn't have been able to consider teams in the National League. But now that I've been able to play in both leagues, it makes my choice easier ... I just want to wait and see what teams [are] interested in me, and choose a team that has an opportunity of winning, choose a team that I know will let me play center field, and I will be happy."
3. No cover
After two days of closely watching the weather and then playing Game 2 in the cold and rain, these clubs were more than happy to leave meteorological matters to the folks up in New England. The roof is open at Minute Maid Park, it's sunny and 80 degrees, and that summer humidity is long gone. Expect the roof to be open if it's like this on Saturday, and that could even mean watching an occasional home run leave the entire building, just like this summer's Century 21 Home Run Derby.
4. Kline gets good news
Cardinals reliever Steve Kline met with a specialist about his ongoing problem with the flexor tendon in his left index finger (70 percent tear). Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Kline was concerned about the soreness and swelling after Game 2, and said there are "a couple of pitches that are hard for him to throw." Kline on Friday was diagnosed with having an apparent case of gout that's aggravating the tendon tear. He's likely to miss at least two games, but that means he could still see some action in this series if it goes long.
5. Out on the Lidge
ESPN play-by-play broadcaster Dan Shulman, working this series with Dave Campbell, was on ESPN Radio a few hours after Game 2 and led the second-guessing about Astros manager Phil Garner's decision to use Dan Miceli in the eighth inning instead of closer Brad Lidge. Miceli gave up the decisive back-to-back homers to Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen; Lidge never appeared in St. Louis. "These are the playoffs," Shulman said. "You may have to change your pattern."
6. The Single Paper Series
There was a consistent weather theme on the front-page headlines of the only two major daily newspapers in this tabloid-free LCS. "Swingin' in the rain" read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline. Alas, readers in Houston picked up their morning Chronicle and saw: "When it rains, it pours."
7. Glad to be home
The Astros won their final 18 home games of the regular season. Although they did drop Game 4 at home against Atlanta in the NL Division Series, third baseman Morgan Ensberg said he thinks Minute Maid Park will be a pick-me-up. "I think we feel really confident at home," he said. "In the clubhouse, it's not a situation where everybody's down and moping around as if we can't do it. We did some very good things in both of these games, and put some runs up on the board and we really, I think, did a good job against their starters and against their relievers. So I don't think we feel intimidated or down whatsoever."
8. Roger this, Roger that
Don't be surprised to see switch-hitter Roger Cedeno in the Cardinals' starting lineup for Game 3. He is 10-for-23 (.435) with six walks in his career against Roger Clemens, who will start for the Astros.
9. Unfamiliar territory
Before this series shifted to Houston, one of the most telling remarks about the first two games happened when Rolen entered the postgame interview room and MLB moderator Katy Feeney asked if anyone had a question. "Yeah, I've got one," Rolen said after busting out of his slump with two homers. "What's this room?"
10. What's a washeteria?
Astros fan and ironworker Carl Capuano was asked by the Chronicle to describe the magnitude of the NLCS in Houston. "Huge," he said. "Every place you go they're talking about the Astros -- the job, the stores, the washeterias, even the churches. The whole state, everybody is an Astros fan this week." Ever curious, Hotsheet checked, and a washeteria is a place in Texas where you can wash your clothes, eat and talk about Killer B's.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.