10/19/2004 6:15 PM ET
NLCS Game 6 Hotsheet
10 things to consider before Wednesday's game
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
|Phil Garner announced before Game 6 that Pete Munro would be the starter. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
ST. LOUIS -- The National League Championship Series returns to Busch Stadium for Game 6 on Wednesday, with the Astros holding a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals in the best-of-seven series. Here is what people around the NLCS were talking about:
1. Pete and repeat
Astros manager Phil Garner ended the suspense and announced that Pete Munro, who pitched Game 2, will start Game 6 and Roger Clemens would start a Game 7 the following day if necessary. Garner explained during Tuesday's workout day: "If you ask Roger to come back on short days, two out of the last three starts, I'm not sure -- even though he's willing and able and fine with it, he told me he'll do anything that we need to do to win a ballgame -- I think all things considered, it's best to let him go on the fifth day and give Pete his shot tomorrow."
2. That buzzing noise
The stands will be a sea of bright red again, but people were still talking about the buzz in Houston following what was either the last game of the year at Minute Maid Park or the prelude to a World Series. "This crowd was abuzz before this game started," Garner said after Jeff Kent's walk-off homer won Game 5. "I walked out before the game started, and in batting practice it was buzzing." No buzzing, however, could compare to the sound that fans heard over the PA system while Jeff Bagwell was batting in the ninth: A deafening and droning hum that is meant to sound like a swarm of killer bees.
3. Put him on the B list
It just seems awkward every time Kent is on deck or at-bat and Astros fans are wearing honeybee getups and leaving him out of their alphabetical party. Even in the Houston Chronicle, there is a daily chart called "Tracking the Killer B's" that just seems goofy without mentioning Kent. In the interest of officially including him in the fun, the Hotsheet crew has come up with a B-list name for him as well. Mindful of his birthplace in California, let's call him "Bellflower."
4. East Coast influence
The start time for Wednesday's game remained uncertain, based on the outcome of Tuesday's Game 6 in the American League Championship Series. If Boston wins today, then the Cards and Astros play at 4:15 p.m. ET in Game 6 and the Red Sox and Yankees would follow after that game. If New York ends the ALCS today, then Game 6 of the NLCS will be at 8:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
5. Lights are still out
It is amazing to think that Astros closer Brad "Lights Out" Lidge never got onto the field for the first two games of this series in St. Louis, because he has emerged as the most dominating closer of this postseason. A quick comparison of the four LCS closers and their numbers in the 2004 postseason:
Keith Foulke|Red Sox|0-0|1|0.00|5|9
6. Next question, please
Tony La Russa is hoping to avoid going 0-4 in NLCS appearances as a Cardinal manager. When asked Tuesday how much a series loss here would take away from a spectacular 105-win regular season, he replied: "That's a question that doesn't have to be answered now, and I hope it doesn't have to be answered later, either."
7. The Single Paper Series
Tuesday's latest from the low-pulp, tabloid-free LCS: "What a blast!" was the headline on top of the front page of the Chronicle -- over a photo of Kent flipping his helmet as he reached home plate on the walk-off homer. Richard Justice wrote in his Chronicle front-page column: "The Astros leave for St. Louis today. They've been told to pack for six nights, to bring something for a special occasion. Like a World Series. Thus begins the strangest road trip of the strangest season they've ever had." St. Louis Post-Dispatch main headline: "KENT DELIVERS CRUSHING BLOW." Columnist Bernie Miklasz noted that the Cardinals hit .086 (7-for-81) in the three losses at Houston if you exclude Albert Pujols.
8. Best trade that wasn't made
Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker continues to be asked if he had considered trading Carlos Beltran before the July 31 trading deadline. "That's where I found myself wrestling with that issue," Hunsicker said. "Now you're in sixth place in the Wild Card, you're seven games behind, you have five teams to climb over and about five weeks left. The odds aren't too good. That was really the only time I seriously thought about, 'Should we try to move a guy or two if we get something significant for him?' As fate would have it, that's the time we were starting to heat up and put a string together."
9. But keeping him in Houston is another thing
Beltran will be a free agent after the playoffs, and Astros owner Drayton McLane this week expressed to MLB.com his desire to keep Beltran around for 2005. Whatever happens, Hunsicker said the outfielder already has been a major payoff for the franchise. "This guy's clearly helped raise this club to another level and helped create an excitement in this city that I have not seen in the nine years I've been here, other than possibly Randy Johnson (in 1998)," Hunsicker said. "Now it's superseded the excitement of the Johnson trade, just because he was here longer than Johnson and because of where the club was when we got Beltran."
10. And the crowd cheered on
Overheard at a Houston airport gate at about 6:30 local time on Tuesday morning: "That was the most awesome thing I've ever seen after Kent's home run. Everyone just stayed there. It's like no one wanted to leave."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.