10/09/09 12:28 AM ET
Cards focused, but history against them
St. Louis hopes to be first to advance after 0-2 NLDS hole
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Now it's the Cardinals' turn to overcome a difficult pair.
This is the 15th year of Division Series play, and no NL club ever has lost the first two games of a Division Series and advanced to the League Championship Series.
Is it impossible? No. Four American League clubs have done it: 1995 Mariners (vs. Yankees), 1999 Red Sox (vs. Indians), 2001 Yankees (vs. A's) and 2003 Red Sox (vs. A's).
"We have to win three games. It is a big task," Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said after a Game 2 in which he went from hero in the second inning (solo home run) to goat in the ninth (muffed fly ball). "The Dodgers are a good team. But it is three games. If we play well, we have a chance."
The clubs work out in St. Louis on Friday afternoon, and Game 3 of this best-of-five series is at Busch Stadium at 6:07 p.m. ET on Saturday. Game 4, if necessary, would be at Busch at 3:37 p.m. ET on Sunday, and a fifth and deciding game would be back at Dodger Stadium if needed on Tuesday night. That first pitch is scheduled for 9:37 p.m. ET, but it would be at 8:07 if that is the only game played that night.
After coming up short with their 1-2 punch on the hill -- and still searching for words after not being able to make Wainwright's dominant performance count -- the Cardinals start Joel Pineiro (15-12) in Game 3. The Dodgers counter with Vicente Padilla, who struck out a season-high 10 batters in his final regular-season start Sunday against the Rockies.
0-2 Division Series deficits
Padilla was a combined 12-6 this season with the Rangers and Dodgers, and has not faced the Cardinals since 2003 as a member of the Phillies. Yes, that was the last year that a Major League Baseball team came back from an 0-2 Division Series deficit to win.
"We've been doing this all year, you know that," said Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning of this series to start the L.A. momentum. "We've been coming back all year. It shows the character of our team. Now that's two wins and one to go. It shows we can beat the best pitchers in the league, and we definitely proved that the past two days, and we got another tough pitcher in St. Louis and hope we can wrap it up Saturday.
"I'm sure [for the Cardinals being in L.A.], it's hard to play, but it pumps us up. Now we have to go there and listen to their crowd. We just have to be relaxed and grind out and get the job done. Nothing we do surprises me. We've come back a lot this year. We showed we never give up. It's hard to beat a team like that. Ninth inning [on Thursday], we thought we had a chance. We got to their bullpen and got it done. ... That was the most exciting moment of my life in baseball right there."
Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez will have all eyes on them in Game 3, as each star slugger tries to bust out of a power slump. Pujols, who led the Majors with 47 homers this season, has gone 85 consecutive at-bats without a homer. His last homer was on Sept. 9. As for Ramirez, his swing has not been the same in a while. He has gone 43 at-bats without a homer, dating back to Sept. 18 at San Francisco, and was 0-for-4 in Game 2. The best contact he had so far in this series might have been with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's helmet on Thursday.
If you look at both of these teams, you can find plenty of people who have been through either or both sides of a 2-0 Division Series lead. Take Julio Lugo. He was dressing at his Cardinals locker after the wild Game 2 finish, and was reminded of what happened his rookie year in 2001.
The Astros had home-field advantage that year, but the Braves won the opener with John Smoltz, now his teammate, getting the save. Tom Glavine and Smoltz combined for a 1-0 victory in Game 2, and then the series moved to Georgia and John Burkett was the winning pitcher for Atlanta in the sweep. Lugo broke in by going 0-for-8 in that NLDS.
"You never want to be 0-2," Lugo said, "but nobody said it was gonna be easy. They're both good teams here. You just gotta win one and take it from there. We faced Atlanta a lot of times in the playoffs, and we could never break through. That first year for me, they beat us three games to two."
In 2006, Lugo got back to an NLDS and his Dodgers were swept by the Mets. That series started out with two at Shea Stadium and then moved back to Dodger Stadium, where the Mets wrapped it up. It was the series when Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca tagged two Dodgers baserunners on one play in Game 1. But that was nothing compared to what Lugo saw in Game 2 of this NLDS, when the Cardinals were a catch away from going back with a 1-1 series tie.
"It's a crazy game, man," Lugo said.
Smoltz has seen both sides of 2-0, and he said it is certainly doable for the Redbirds.
Tough, but doable.
"The biggest thing is, you have to remember every team has won three in a row," Smoltz said. "You start buying into the deficit ... but you can win three in a row. The way to do that is win the next game, play reckless. See if you can come back here [to Dodger Stadium]. Originally you never wanted to come back here, but now you do.
"It's going to be a situation where each game is going to be something talked about. We have a chance to win three in a row. We've done it a bunch of times already. You can't play scared and tight and worry about Game 4, because we have to win Game 3."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.