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10/08/09 6:08 PM EST

Ludwick fulfills lifelong goal, seeks more

Cards star logs two hits in playoff debut, just misses big one

LOS ANGELES -- A season ago, Ryan Ludwick achieved just about everything a ballplayer in his shoes could want. He established himself as a Major Leaguer, in an organization where he felt valued. He earned his first seven-figure payday. A former hot-shot prospect, Ludwick was thrilled to have arrived after trying for six years to get a foothold.

Cardinals at a glance
2009 record: 91-71
2008 record: 86-76
NL Central champs

McClellan: Hometown boy
Cards: Shaking off walk-off
Ludwick: Dream fulfilled
Hawksworth: On way up
Ryan: Playing it cool
Pujols: Ready for fun stuff
Wainwright: Proud, durable
Holliday: Kids' play
Pujols: Triple Crown?
La Russa: 14th postseason
Carpenter: Heart of staff
Pujols: Eschewing rest
Holliday: A perfect fit
Carpenter: Ready to go
La Russa: Getting proactive
Wainwright: Apt pupil
Pujols: His place in history?
Pujols: The evolution
Holliday: Offensive spark
La Russa: Controls fate
Pujols: MVP No. 3?
Wainwright: Mr. Consistent
La Russa: Winning cures all
Carpenter: A go Game 1
Holliday: Big impact
Wainwright: Cy in cards?

One thing was still missing, though, and he reached it this week. Ludwick is in his first Major League postseason, 10 years after he signed a professional contract as a second-round Draft pick of the A's.

"It took me a long time, even getting to the big leagues," Ludwick said. "It's been a wild ride since I came here to St. Louis. A lot of things have happened in a positive direction. And getting to the postseason I always said was kind of going to be the icing on the cake. Well, obviously we're here now and no one wants to go home. I think the icing on the cake obviously now would be getting to the World Series."

Now he wants more. Ludwick had two hits in his first playoff game, and he was inches -- if that -- from what would have been a huge hit. Except for a frustrating outcome in the 5-3 Game 1 loss to the Dodgers, his postseason debut was everything he hoped it would be.

"It was an unbelievable atmosphere," he said. "I was extremely excited. I think if you're not a little bit nervous there's something wrong. But I think you can obviously take that nervousness and turn it into a positive. There's no doubt I was ready to play, and there's no doubt in my mind that everyone on our team was ready to play. Obviously, the end result wasn't what we wanted, but here we are, Game 2, with a chance to even things up and go back to St. Louis."

Ryan Ludwick's NLDS Game 1
Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick went 2-for-4 on Wednesday with a walk, a run scored and an RBI single.
Inning Outs Situation Result
1st 1 Bases loaded RBI single
3rd 1 Man on first Walk
4th* 2 Bases loaded Groundout, 1-3
7th 1 None on Groundout, 4-3
9th** 1 None on Single, 9
* -- Narrowly missed hit down left-field line ** -- Scored on Mark DeRosa's double

As for that almost, Ludwick isn't dwelling on it. His line drive into the left-field corner in the fourth inning was ruled to have landed barely foul, depriving him of what would have been a two- or three-run double. Replays were hard to find, and Ludwick said he never got a really conclusive view of whether the ball clipped the foul line.

"When I hit it, I came out of the box fairly slowly, kind of watching it," he admitted. "I knew Manny [Ramirez] wasn't going to get there. But when I hit it, it was one of those balls kind of where I knew I had gotten around the ball a little bit. I was out in front. It seemed to be hooking quite a bit. I thought it was going to be a lot further foul than it was. It ended up straightening up. That's when I started taking off running a little bit more."

He and manager Tony La Russa both acknowledged the play could have been a turning point, but focused instead on what's ahead rather than what has already happened.

"I know it was close," La Russa said.

"What if? I mean, that's just that's baseball."

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