Potent offense keeps Cardinals winning

Posted: Friday, October 08, 2004


  St. Louis Cardinals' Larry walker, right, congratulates Mike Matheny on his fourRBI game after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 in game two of the National League Division Series, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2004 in St. Louis. The Cardinals lead the best of five series, 2-0. AP Photo/Tom Gannam

St. Louis Cardinals' Larry walker, right, congratulates Mike Matheny on his fourRBI game after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-3 in game two of the National League Division Series, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2004 in St. Louis. The Cardinals lead the best of five series, 2-0.

AP Photo/Tom Gannam

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Matheny, Edgar Renteria and the St. Louis Cardinals can win with singles, doubles and triples, too.

In Game 1, the Cardinals tied a postseason record with five home runs. They stayed in the ballpark for Game 2 on Thursday, but the result was exactly the same: another 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

''I think we're capable of playing a lot of different ways,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ''Sometimes you take whatever the pitcher gives you.''

A trio of MVP candidates has carried the Cardinals' offense much of the year, with Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds each driving in 100 runs. Those three were 1-for-11 in Game 2, but the bottom of the order picked them up by going 8-for-10 with five RBIs and five runs scored.

''It's always nice to take a little pressure off those guys and make them feel like they don't have to carry us every game,'' Matheny said. ''It's amazing to watch those guys day in and day out, to see how consistent they are.''

Following a sweep at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals will head to Dodger Stadium with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five NL playoff series. The third game will be Saturday night, with Matt Morris trying to wrap it up against Jose Lima.

''It's not going to be easy, that's for sure,'' Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. ''But I'm not going to sit here and say it can't be done.''

Milton Bradley, Shawn Green and Jayson Werth homered for the Dodgers, who lost their eighth straight playoff game and remained winless in the postseason since beating Oakland in the 1988 World Series. Los Angeles dropped to 0-5 at St. Louis this year.

The Cardinals combined eight singles, two doubles and one triple, and the closest they came to a home run was Tony Womack's triple off the base of the wall in the second and a drive to the wall by winning pitcher Dan Haren.

Seven of their eight runs scored with two outs as St. Louis used a small-ball approach to chase Jeff Weaver in the fifth inning.

''They made things happen when they got men on base,'' Weaver said. ''Vice versa, we didn't do that. It was the bottom of the order that hurt us.''

Matheny, the No. 8 hitter, became the first Cardinals player to get four RBIs in a division series game with two-run singles in the fifth and seventh. Matheny is a career .239 hitter, but is 15-for-39 (.385) during an 11-game postseason hitting streak.

Renteria, the No. 6 hitter, was 3-for-4. His two-out, go-ahead single was the key blow in a three-run fifth that broke a tie and put St. Louis ahead 6-3.

Reggie Sanders was 3-for-3 and scored twice in the No. 7 slot.

''It is gratifying to have the bottom of the order come through,'' Sanders said. ''This is a collective effort.''

The Cardinals overcome a shaky outing by 15-game winner Jason Marquis, making his first career postseason start. He couldn't hold a 3-1 second-inning lead, allowing homers to Werth in the first and to Green and Bradley on consecutive at-bats to start the fourth.

The homer by Bradley, the Dodgers' troubled right fielder who had a run-in with a Los Angeles reporter on the off-day Wednesday, was a drive estimated at 461 that ricocheted off the right-field scoreboard.

Marquis lasted only 3 1-3 innings -- his shortest outing of the year -- and allowed three homers for the second time of the year. Both came against the Dodgers and both had added pressure -- his Sept. 10 outing in Los Angeles came on the day his first daughter, Reese, was born, and he was unable to get a flight in time to be present for the birth.

Haren worked two scoreless innings, allowing one hit with three strikeouts. He's projected to be in the rotation next year, with both Morris and Game 1 starter Woody Williams eligible for free agency.

''Dan, he's a cool dude,'' La Russa said. ''He's tough as nails and gave us two good innings.''

Marquis was done after a one-out walk to David Ross in the fourth, but the Dodgers missed their best chance to break the game open. Cal Eldred walked Cesar Izturis and Werth with two outs and went to a 3-0 count against Steve Finley before getting him on a fly out to center on a full-count pitch.

''That was our opportunity and I think that was a big key to the game,'' Tracy said. ''If we can get the lead there, we put ourselves in a pretty good position.''

Weaver made his first career postseason start and endured his second straight shaky postseason outing, giving up six runs on eight hits in 4 2-3 innings. Last year, he was with the Yankees and surrendered a 12th-inning, game-winning homer to Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins in the pivotal Game 4 of the World Series.

Weaver worked around two walks in the first when he struck out Edmonds for the final out. He had another shaky inning in the second and the Cardinals capitalized, with the first run scoring on Weaver's wild pickoff throw to first.

With two outs, Tony Womack hit an RBI triple off the right-field wall and Larry Walker followed with a run-scoring double just inside the first-base line for a 3-1 lead.

Notes: Weaver faced the Cardinals twice in September and was 0-0 despite allowing nine earned runs in 13 innings. ... Marquis was 1-3 with a 5.34 ERA in his last five regular-season starts. ... The game lasted 3 hours, 36 minutes, the longest in division play for the Cardinals. ... The Cardinals' bullpen has allowed one run in 8 2-3 innings in the first two games of the series.

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