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World Series 2001
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10/15/2001 02:41 AM ET
Cards' silent lumber reason for loss
By Tom Singer
MLB.com
It was a frustrating series at the plate for Mark McGwire.
PHOENIX -- Here, men in the Old West died with their boots on. Sunday night, the St. Louis Cardinals died with their men on ... base.

The Redbirds' week-long inability to get a clutch hit is the reason they made a silent retreat from postseason Sunday night, again tormented by Curt Schilling in a 2-1 Division Series Game 5 defeat.

The first Game 5 in NL Division Series history had been riveting. Unfortunately, that included any Cardinals runner who reached scoring position being riveted there.

"You sit there and think, 'Something is wrong with the hitting,'" noted Mark McGwire -- who may very well have played the final game of his Hall-of-Fame career. "No, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the hitting.

"It was just great pitching. Just classic playoff baseball."

For St. Louis, a classic muffle-job by Arizona's staff. The Cardinals went 2-for-33 with runners in scoring position in the five games. The two were Jim Edmonds' Game 3 homer with a man on second, and J.D. Drew's infield single in the first inning of Game 4.

"Schilling and the rest of them made key pitches in situations when they needed to," said Drew, who jolted the Cardinals to life with his game-tying homer with two outs in the eighth, but missed out on St. Louis sainthood status on Tony Womack's ninth-inning dagger into left-center.

"You can look at both sides. Neither team scored a lot of runs. The way the pitchers were throwing the ball, it was just tough to score. In situations where we had guys in scoring position and were hoping to sneak a hit through, they made tough pitches."

The 45th inning really captured the essence of the entire series. The Cards bunted the lead run into scoring position with one out in the ninth, but Schilling struck out Edgar Renteria and Mike Matheny to survive.

And we all know what transpired in the bottom.

"One day soon, I imagine I'll sit back to watch the tape of this game and really get into it," said Matheny. "I had as much fun as you can have playing baseball. We really did rise to the occasion.

"It was just a tough game. We came to play, and so did they," added the catcher, who beamed with pride when discussing batterymate Matt Morris.

"You wouldn't think it could happen to him twice but," Matheny said, "I think people now realize what kind of player Matt is. I was really proud of him."

St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa was knocked nearly speechless when asked to comment on the right-hander's gutsy, vain efforts in Bank One Ballpark, losses by 1-0 and 2-1 counts to fellow 22-game winner Schilling.

"I'm not a betting man, but if you'd told me before this whole thing began that Matt would pitch 15 innings in this ballpark, give up two earned run -- and not win either time ... " After a lengthy pause, La Russa finale added, "He was great."

This was only a couple of minutes after Womack had triggered an on-field celebration. La Russa was ashen.

Drew's uplifting home run ... Arizona's botched suicide-squeeze play ... both pumping air into the Cards' momentum balloon. Then the singled fisted into left-center by Womack, and it's woe Mac as well as woe all the other Cardinals.

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"It's just unbelievable to me how you can put two 22-game winners together back-to-back and get this," McGwire said. "I mean, every time they needed a pitch to get someone out, both did it.

"Nobody deserved to lose either of those games."

"It's a real bitter defeat," said La Russa, admitting he felt Drew's home run put his team on the right track. "I thought we were going forward. Then Jimmy (Edmonds) gives us the leadoff single in the ninth. I thought we had the thing."

La Russa shook his head silently, doubtless a myriad of thoughts spinning therein. Mere feet away, whoops and screams filled the corridor leading to the D-Backs' clubhouse.

"Watching Morris and Schilling ... that's not Major League, that's a notch above. That kind of job by Schilling makes it easier to take.

"I just wish our guy could've won one, or the other."

In the sullen Cardinals' clubhouse, players silently exchanged hugs and meaningful glances through reddened eyes.

"The series was so close the whole way, it's tough to lose it," said Fernando Vina, who probably was St. Louis' offensive MVP by going 6-for-19 (.316), many of them key blows. "A break here or there, and we could've easily won. This game was the toughest; nobody deserved to lose it."

Vina is easy to identify as the MVP, because the Cards had so many goats. All-world rookie Albert Pujols went 2-for-18. McGwire was 1-for-11, with six strikeouts. Even Drew was in a 1-for-12 rut (that Game 3 infield single) before cranking up on Schilling in the eighth.

"Give credit to Schilling," Pujols said. "He threw two great games. Tonight he was even sharper than last time. He was throwing hard, mixing his pitches and the location. We can only top our hats; it's the only thing to do.

"When a pitcher's on, everything goes his way. They worked hard, too, and they won."

The flip side of that is losing -- but Drew had a difficult time feeling like part of a loser. Someone has to go home -- it'd be real crowded otherwise in the BOB come Tuesday night's League Championship Series -- and the Cardinals are packing, but they didn't pack it in.

Big difference.

"We overcame a lot of adversity to get to this point," Drew said. "I think we proved the caliber of this team. Hopefully, this team will stay together for a while. It'd be great to be back here next year."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com