10/18/2004 11:32 PM ET
No homers, but Beltran does deliver
Center fielder makes great grab, starts winning rally
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
|Carlos Beltran celebrates as he scores on Jeff Kent's walk-off home run. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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HOUSTON -- Even when he goes 1-for-4, Carlos Beltran can look like Superman.
But no home run? What's up with that?
"It's surprising, actually, that he didn't hit a home run," Astros closer Brad Lidge said, smiling. "He hit the ball hard enough but he kept it low. And his defensive play was so good that he helped us out that way."
For the first time in nine days -- since Game 4 of the National League Division Series -- Beltran did not hit one out. His homer streak may have ended at a postseason-record five games, but Beltran did plenty of other things to show why Lidge and the rest of the Astros have dubbed him "Superman."
There he was, sprinting and diving in center field for the final out of the seventh. Backpedaling and climbing Tal's Hill for the first out of the eighth. Singling -- the Astros' second hit all night -- and sparking the game-winning rally in the ninth.
"Superman, doing it again," Craig Biggio said.
And there was Beltran, hands raised, smiling and diving into a sea of teammates when he scored first on Jeff Kent's game-winning, three-run home run. It gave the Astros a 3-0 win over the Cardinals, and left the team one win away from the World Series.
"Unbelievable, man," Beltran said. "Being two behind in the series, now to be one ahead is great. We're really believing in our ballclub. We're believing in everyone here. We're running out there and giving it our best."
Offensively, at least, Beltran's best wasn't good enough through the first eight innings. But he was not alone. Astros starter Brandon Backe limited the Cardinals to one single in eight innings, and Cardinals starter Woody Williams held the Astros to the same through seven.
Beltran scalded the baseball in each of his first three at-bats, and had nothing to show for it. Reggie Sanders ran down his line drive to left-center field in the first inning, and Beltran lined out to right in the third.
He smoked a grounder to Albert Pujols in the sixth inning, but the Cardinals first baseman gobbled up the ball and underhanded it to Williams just in time for the out.
Three at-bats, no hits. That just doesn't happen to Beltran. Not during this postseason.
In the Astros' first eight games of these playoffs, Beltran went hitless just once -- an 0-for-5 in Game 2 of the NLDS against Atlanta. He had at least two hits in four of his last five games.
"I wasn't frustrated," he said. "I was just trying to do my job. I was having good at-bats against Williams, I just wasn't able to have anything to show for it. ... In that last particular at-bat, I was just telling myself to put the ball in play. It went into the right spot."
That last at-bat came against Isringhausen, a single to right-center field leading off the ninth.
|The Astros have slugged 23 home runs in the 2004 postseason through Game 4 of the NLCS:||Date
|Oct. 6||4||Ausmus, Berkman, Beltran and Lane||W 9-3|
|Oct. 7||2||Bagwell and Chavez||L 4-2|
|Oct. 9||1||Beltran||W 8-5|
|Oct. 10||1||Biggio||L 6-5|
|Oct. 11||3||Beltran (2) and Bagwell||W 12-3|
|Oct. 13||4||Beltran, Kent, Berkman, Lamb||L 10-7|
|Oct. 14||2||Beltran, Ensberg||L 6-4|
|Oct. 16||3||Kent, Beltran, Berkman||W 5-2|
|Oct. 17||2||Berkman, Beltran||W 6-5|
|Oct. 18||1||Kent||W 3-0|
|The Astros are now second in NL postseason history behind the 2002 Giants, who slugged 27 homers, tops in Major League history.|
"As good a closer as Jason Isringhausen is, we had a feeling Carlos was going to score right there," said Lidge, who pitched the top of the ninth for the win. "However we had to get it done, he was going to do it."
Beltran broke for second twice before Jeff Bagwell flew to deep center field for out No. 1. Beltran then stole second base without a throw -- his 31st steal in 31 tries since joining the Astros midseason
-- and prompted the Cardinals to intentionally walk Lance Berkman to bring up Kent.
Boom. A first-pitch home run. Game over.
"This is great," Beltran said. "This is a baseball atmosphere. This is what you look for, a situation where you really want to be. We're really playing well in our home ballpark, in front of our home crowd. They deserved it, too."
After the Astros tied the series with a Game 4 victory, Beltran said the pressure was on the Cardinals. With Houston now ahead and the series shifting back to St. Louis, does the pressure shift as well?
"We still don't feel pressure at all," Beltran said. "That's the way we feel. We need to win. That's all. We need to keep doing what we've been doing. Right now, good things have been happening to us and we have to enjoy this moment."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.