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10/10/05 2:25 PM ET

Astros-Cardinals: Pitching analysis

Aces abound on both teams' starting rotations

  Houston Astros

 Andy Pettitte LHP
Pettitte's presence, sorely missed a year ago in the playoffs, paid off in the regular season and in his first postseason start, a solid seven-inning effort for the victory in Game 1 of the Division Series. Pettitte, who finished the season with a career-low 2.39 ERA, was one of baseball's most dominant starters after the All-Star break, going 11-2 with a 1.72 ERA in 15 games, including a 4-0 record and 1.99 ERA in September. He admits that the elbow pain that necessitated offseason surgery has made him a better pitcher as he has had to concentrate more on location and rely less on velocity. He allowed three or fewer runs in 28 of 30 starts.
Pitches: Fastball, cut fastball, sinker, changeup
Speed: 82-94 mph

 Roy Oswalt RHP
On most teams, a 2.86 ERA would lead the rotation, but that number is a distant third on the Houston staff. That's more an indication of the depth of the rotation than of the performance of 20-game winner Oswalt, who pitched 7 1/3 innings to get the Game 3 win in the NLDS. That came after a September in which he went 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA. Oswalt has some of the bigger speed differences between pitches that you will see. The changeup he mastered last year has been extremely effective again for this workhorse, who leads the staff and is among the league leaders with 235 innings pitched.
Pitches: Fastball, changeup, curve, slider
Speed: Mid-80s to mid-90s mph

 Roger Clemens RHP
You thought you'd seen it all from the Rocket. Then came Sunday's remarkable relief performance for the win in the 18-inning classic that got the Astros to the NLCS -- three shutout innings on three days' rest. The Major League leader in ERA, the 43-year-old Clemens had another incredible regular season. He led the Majors in ERA on the road (1.32) and opponents' batting average (.188). Clemens has been victimized by shaky run support, but the seven-time Cy Young Award winner was not as sharp in September as he has been, either. His Division Series start was a loss, but his first relief appearance since his rookie season turned into a huge win.
Pitches: Four- and two-seam fastball, split-finger fastball, slider, changeup
Speed: 84-96 mph

 Brandon Backe RHP
Last October served as a superb introduction to the postseason for the Galveston native, who came to the Astros in 2004. He had three starts last October for a 2.89 ERA, coming up big with eight shutout innings in Game 5 against the Cardinals. This year, he took the ball in Game 4 of the Division Series but didn't get through the fifth of the 18-inning marathon, allowing five earned runs. His 25 starts and 149 1/3 innings pitched were career highs, and he loves pitching at home.
Pitches: Fastball, changeup, curve, slider
Speed: Mid-80s to mid-90s mph

  St. Louis Cardinals

 Chris Carpenter RHP
This is the Chris Carpenter the Cardinals knew they were missing last October. Now, he's one of the biggest reasons for their confidence in the postseason. His late-season mini-slump excepted, the All-Star starter put up Cy Young-caliber numbers in the regular season. He put the late-season issue aside when he pitched a gem in a hot Game 1 of the Division Series at Busch Stadium, but he came out when cramping due to dehydration affected his pitching hand. The most important aspect of Carpenter's season is that he's had a full season of health, and great results have followed. Hard stuff, soft stuff, it's all good.
Pitches: Fastball, curve, changeup
Speed: Mid-80s to mid-90s mph

 Mark Mulder LHP
The left-hander was drilled by a line drive early in his Game 2 start, making Mulder's status one of the key issues Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan have to contend with going into the NLCS. Mulder battled through the pain in a sharp seven-inning effort to get the Game 2 win, but his bruised upper left arm was sore days afterward. Mulder made the Cardinals' rotation a lot better with his arrival from Oakland, and he has delivered a 200-inning season that ranks right up there with his solid seasons with the A's, though not quite with the very best ones. His health has been key as well, because he has missed a couple of Octobers with injury in the past.
Pitches: Fastball, curve, slider, changeup
Speed: Low-80s to low-90s mph

 Matt Morris RHP
Morris pitched the clincher of the NLDS with aplomb, his performance silencing any doubters who thought his late-season numbers might translate into his Game 3 performance. Morris was sharp in six innings of work and claimed Game 3 after falling in the same game a year earlier. The career Cardinal could have moved on a year ago, but he re-signed with the club over the winter following shoulder surgery, hoping for another trip to the postseason. He helped the Cardinals get there with a solid season that started strong and fizzled a little in the late summer, but he remains a real threat to put up another big start or two in the postseason.
Pitches: Fastball, curve, changeup
Speed: Low-80s to low-90s mph

 Jason Marquis RHP
After a frustrating season of inconsistency, Marquis and Jeff Suppan are pretty even for the final postseason rotation spot -- either one could have been the Game 4 starter in the NLDS had the Cardinals needed one. The best athlete among the pitchers -- and one of the best on the team, period -- Marquis sometimes gets in his own way, but if he keeps his energy focused, he can be valuable. He fared well against Houston this season, including a complete game in early September, so that might give him an edge.
Pitches: Fastball, cut fastball, curve, changeup
Speed: Mid-80s to mid-90s mph

 Jeff Suppan RHP
A year ago, Suppan pitched beautifully and won the Game 4 clincher in the 2004 Division Series at Dodger Stadium, the ballpark of his childhood. After a season in which he matched his win total (16) and lowered his ERA (3.57 from 4.16) from the season before, Suppan was a 50-50 chance to get a Division Series start. Such is life when two aces like Carpenter and Mulder are added to the postseason mix. Suppan didn't face Houston this season.
Pitches: Fastball, curve, changeup
Speed: Low-80s to low-90s mph

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