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10/20/06 3:09 AM ET

Rolen plays key role in NLCS clincher

Robbed of homer, third baseman scores on winning blast

NEW YORK -- Throughout the National League Championship Series, some were wondering whether Scott Rolen should be starting at third base for the Cardinals because of a sore left shoulder injury. It didn't help that he didn't do much with the bat during the first six games of the series, and some wondered if he could hit a high fastball because of his ailing shoulder.

But when it was over, Rolen received the last laugh by starting the game-winning rally in the top of the ninth inning of Game 7 against the Mets with a single to left field. He would later score on a two-run homer by Yadier Molina, which helped the Cardinals win their 17th pennant with a 3-1 victory on Thursday night at Shea Stadium.

"I know how I feel, and I know I want to be on the field," Rolen said. "I'm ready to play every game. I believe the [my] heart and I believe in [myself]. That's an issue that got blown out of proportion. But I'm ready to play."

In the sixth inning, however, it looked like Rolen's luck was running out. With the game tied at 1-1 and Jim Edmonds on first base, Rolen hit the first pitch from Oliver Perez for what looked like a two-run homer over the left-field wall, but Mets left fielder Endy Chavez leaped and made a spectacular catch, then doubled off Edmonds at first base.

"It was a difference maker. That was a big play in the game," Rolen said. "It was an unbelievable play. You are going to see a lot of highlights for that play for a long time. I thought it went over the fence. I saw some white when he caught the ball. I thought it bounced and went over the fence."

In the bottom half of the sixth, David Wright hit a ground ball right at Rolen, but he threw it away for a two-base error. It was raining, and Rolen said the wet ball slipped out of his hands.

"It didn't come out very good," Rolen said. "I picked it up and it was wet. Obviously, I had no intentions of throwing the ball there after I released the ball. It took off on me."

But starter Jeff Suppan picked Rolen up soon thereafter. After walking Shawn Green intentionally to load the bases, Suppan struck out Jose Valentin and got Chavez to fly out to end the inning.

"Rolen has been a rock for us all year," Suppan said. "He has always helped me out at third base as far as calming me down and doing great things. He is a tremendous player. I have been blessed to play with Scott Rolen. Nothing needs to be said [after the inning ended]. We are all trying to do what we can."

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In the ninth, Rolen made up for his blunder as he stepped in against reliever Aaron Heilman. Rolen was behind in the count 0-2, but managed to work it to 3-2. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Rolen singled to left.

"I'm not trying to be a hero. I'm trying to have a good at-bat," the Redbirds third baseman said. "What ever happens, happens. If I had popped up at the end of that at-bat, that would have been a good at-bat. That's the way I feel. I'm getting to a point where I'm seeing the ball better. I'm regaining some confidence. I'm trying to put the distractions behind me and play good baseball."

Molina followed and hit a deep fly ball to left field. After seeing Chavez make a great catch off him, Rolen thought Chavez had a bead on ball, but he was wrong. It went over the fence for a two-run home run.

"I didn't think it was a home run, to tell you the truth," Rolen admitted. "I knew it was deep. You gauge whether you see his back or not, and he was kind of gliding to the ball a little bit. So I thought he was going to catch it. I thought it was deep enough for me to tag up and go to second base and hopefully the next batter can knock me in."

Rolen, who will play in his second World Series in three years, hopes that he and the Cardinals fare better this time around. In 2004, Rolen went 0-for-15 as the Red Sox swept the Redbirds in four games.

"We didn't swing the bats very well the last World Series," Rolen said. "We need to play good baseball."

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