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World Series 2001
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10/09/2001 03:35 PM ET
Five Cardinals to watch
By Patrick Mulrenin
MLB.com
Matt Morris: Morris was the Cardinals' best pitcher this season. He became their first pitcher to win 22 games since Bob Gibson won 23 games in 1970. Morris tied Arizona's Curt Schilling for the National League lead in wins.

The most interesting, and startling, statistic from Morris' season is his performance at home as compared to the road. Morris tied a single-season Busch Stadium record by winning 15 of his 18 starts. Away from St. Louis, Morris posted a 7-6 record with a 5.14 ERA in 16 starts. At Busch, Morris allowed 22 earned runs in 122 innings pitched and held opponents to a .280 batting average. On the road, Morris allowed 54 earned runs in 94 1/3 innings pitched and opponents batted a robust .362 against him.

Morris starts the first game of the series against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. The Cardinals need to win one game against the starting tandem of Schilling and Randy Johnson if they plan on advancing to the League Championship Series. Morris has to bring his Busch Stadium game into Bank One Ballpark on Tuesday for the Cardinals to have a chance of winning.

Woody Williams: Williams is the George Jefferson of the Cardinals. No, he is not married to a woman named Weezie. On Aug. 3, Williams made the move up to the penthouse in the sky when the San Diego Padres, out of the playoff chase in the NL West, traded him to St. Louis.

Since he donned a Cardinals uniform, Williams has pitched like a nine-year veteran desperate to get his taste of the postseason. In 23 games with the Padres, Williams was 8-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 23 starts. With the help of pitching coach Dave Duncan, Williams tweaked his pitching approach and went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 11 starts down the stretch for St. Louis.

When Williams pitches in Game 2 on Wednesday, Arizona's Randy Johnson will oppose him. For the same reason that Morris has to be on his game when facing Schilling, Williams has to be equally as tough with Johnson on the mound for Diamondbacks. Johnson, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is not going to give the Cardinals much to hit, but he has been beaten twice this season by St. Louis. If the Cards do not win the first game, the responsibility will rest solely on Williams' shoulders to get a win before the Cardinals return to St. Louis on Friday.

Albert Pujols: He had arguably the greatest rookie season ever. He was the Triple Crown winner for the Cardinals as he led the team in batting average, home runs and RBIs as well as games played, doubles and runs scored. Pujols is the force to be reckoned with in the St. Louis lineup. Period.

Placido Polanco: Pujols may be the team's Most Valuable Player on paper, but many observers would say that it is Polanco who deserves the award. When Fernando Tatis was traded to the Expos in the offseason, Polanco seized his opportunity to become the full-time starting third baseman.

In the field, Polanco has been Mr. Consistent. He has good range and only committed four errors in 263 total chances for a league-leading .985 fielding percentage. Polanco's arm strength has surprised some people who questioned his ability to play the position.

The Cardinals lineup was solidified when Manager Tony La Russa moved Polanco into the second spot, behind leadoff hitter Fernando Vina and in front of J.D. Drew. Polanco gives the Cards the chance to "put crooked numbers on the board," as La Russa would say. He gets big hits when the teams needs them, and he gets on base for Drew, Pujols and Jim Edmonds to drive him home.

Craig Paquette: Paquette may start a game or two in the division series, depending on Mark McGwire's health and ability to produce. McGwire has struggled with his batting average this season, hitting below .200 for the first time in his career, and it is uncertain whether he will be able to turn it around in the postseason.

Paquette is very valuable to La Russa because he can play a number of positions and his offensive production does not make him an easy out in the Cardinals lineup. Paquette has played very well in the final month of the season. He ranked sixth in the NL with a .372 average with runners in scoring position.

Patrick Mulrenin is the site manager for StlCardinals.com. He can be reached at patrickmulrenin@website.mlb.com.