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10/04/05 6:42 PM ET

Game 2 likely to come down to starters

Padres need Astacio to deliver against Mulder, Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Game 1 of the National League Division Series hinged in large part on the performances of the respective starters. Game 2 doesn't figure to be much different.

That's not necessarily good news for the Padres, who are in a 1-0 hole to the defending National League champions after an 8-5 victory by the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Tuesday.

In Game 1, all eight runs scored against Padres ace Jake Peavy, while none scored on Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter.

For Thursday's Game 2, the Cardinals have in Mark Mulder a second ace they traded three quality players to acquire last winter. The Padres have in Pedro Astacio a castoff from a poor pitching club they picked up in a waiver deal in June.

For Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, having Mulder pick up where Carpenter left off is key as St. Louis continues its defense of the National League pennant.

"You saw how we played this year with our starting pitchers and the other guys watching him, so when it's their turn, it's a real healthy responsibility to keep pitching to that standard," La Russa said after Game 1.

Losing Game 1 sets up a tall order for the Padres. The Cardinals are now 9-1 in Division Series play at Busch Stadium, having won all four NLDS openers at home. They're now 15-4 overall in Division Series play, including 5-1 in Game 1.

Now that Game 1 is in the books, the Padres could use a little spark from their starter, because that matchup wound up being surprisingly lopsided Tuesday.

Carpenter dealt six shutout innings against the Padres, coming out only as a precaution after his hand cramped up due to dehydration. Peavy, meanwhile, stumbled off the mound for a two-run wild pitch and wound up getting knocked out of his postseason debut, then going to the hospital for tests on a rib cage injury that showed -- much to everyone's surprise -- two fractured ribs, ending his season.

No question, the two starters for Thursday's game came down different roads this year.

When the Cardinals went out and acquired Mulder, they didn't do it for him to start Game 2 of the National League Division Series, but they knew it would be a fringe benefit. Mulder was acquired for starter Dan Haren, reliever Kiko Calero and top prospect Daric Barton after four-plus stellar seasons as part of the Big Three in Oakland.

Mulder certainly didn't disappoint. He posted his fifth consecutive 15-win season at 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA, and he finished strong by allowing two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, when the Padres acquired Pedro Astacio in a trade with the Rangers in June after Texas had designated him for assignment, well, let's just say starting Game 2 wasn't in the picture yet.

But the way things have gone the last couple of months, the Padres don't mind following up Peavy with Astacio, who has come a long way since the Rangers jettisoned him three months into the season.

The 35-year-old right-hander went 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three September starts, that after going 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in August. With that strong finish, Astacio earned the Game 2 start over former Cardinals right-hander Woody Williams, who will go in Game 3 in San Diego.

Whoever's on the mound, the Padres actually feel like they have some offensive momentum built up after scoring all five of their runs in the final three innings Tuesday -- once Carpenter was out of the game, by the way.

"I think any time you're down eight runs and you end up getting the winning run up at the plate, I think that shows a lot of character and heart of this club -- they were battling to the end," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said.

In the end, however, they're in a one-game hole in a five-game series.

But this team has been in holes before, battling all year long to scratch their way above .500 and win the NL West title.

"It's unfortunate the way things worked out," Padres right fielder Brian Giles said after Game 1. "But this team's never rolled over, and I don't expect us to now."

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.