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10/04/06 8:39 PM ET

Padres aim to even series in Game 2

Friars have lost last seven NLDS games to Cardinals

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres find themselves in a familiar position against the Cardinals heading into what now becomes a crucial Game 2 of their best-of-five National League Division Series on Thursday at PETCO Park.

Going back to 1996, the Padres have lost seven NLDS games in a row to the Cardinals, only leading twice in those games. The Cardinals swept in 1996 and 2005 and are up 1-0 this year. In each of the series, the openers have set the tone, the Cardinals outscoring the Padres by a combined 16-7 in those three games.

During Wednesday's optional workout, Padres manager Bruce Bochy said he didn't expect his team that finished the regular season 88-74 and won the NL West for the fifth time to change much of anything.

"We've been playing good ball," said Bochy, who will send out veteran left-hander David Wells against right-hander Jeff Weaver. "I just want guys to keep doing what they've been doing. These guys have been playing under quite a bit of pressure for quite a while. Probably the most pressure is getting into [the postseason]. Once you get in, you don't change your game. You focus on every pitch the way you did all month."

Conversely, the NLDS seems to be the Cardinals' time of year. They are 18-4 in NLDS play, with three of the losses coming in 2001 to the Diamondbacks, who went on to defeat the Yankees in the World Series.

The other loss came two years ago against the Dodgers in a series the Cardinals won in four games.

St. Louis came back and swept Arizona in 2002. And save for the Game 3 that Jose Lima tossed at Dodger Stadium two years later, the Cardinals have won 11 of their last 12 NLDS games.

Against the Padres the last two years, the Cardinals have jumped off to the lead and have never trailed in a single game.

"That's one of those freak things," Redbirds manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday. "You can score first and lose. As even as the clubs are, I don't think you can make too much of it."

In Tuesday's opener, the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter out-pitched the Padres' Jake Peavy for the second consecutive postseason in the 5-1 victory.

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The win was almost essential to St. Louis' chances this year. The Cards came into the postseason short starter Mark Mulder, who is out indefinitely after left shoulder surgery. Weaver, who didn't even join the Cardinals until July 5 in a trade with the Angels, needs to come up big.

"We have to get a good game from one of our other pitchers so we can get back to Carpenter again," said La Russa, who has slated last year's NL Cy Young Award winner for a possible Game 4 at Busch Stadium on Sunday.

The Padres need to generate some offense and jump out to a rare quick lead.

They are built around their bullpen and win over 90 percent of the time when they lead heading into the late innings. Trevor Hoffman, the all-time leader with 482 saves, has made only one game-on-the-line appearance in the seven previous postseason contests against the Cardinals, losing Game 3 of the 1996 series when St. Louis snapped a 5-5 tie with two runs in the top of the ninth for a 7-5 series-closing win at what was then called San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

"We have to regroup," Bochy said about the fate of his team. "We've been resilient all year. That's the way we have to be now. It was one game and we got beat. We have to put that behind us and come out and keep grinding. That's all you can do at this point."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.