Cardinals still can't come through away from home
Posted: Monday October 25, 2004 12:10AM; Updated: Monday October 25, 2004 1:24AM
BOSTON (AP) -- The scene is always the same at Busch Stadium: a sea of Cardinals fans dressed in red, cheering and chanting, spurring their team to a postseason victory.
The problems start when St. Louis hits the road.
The Cardinals dropped to 1-6 away from home this postseason with a 6-2 loss to Boston in Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday night. And they better cure their traveling woes fast because they need at least one win at Fenway Park to take home a title.
"We're suited to play any kind of game anywhere," manager Tony La Russa said. "Our big regular season was built as much on quality starts as anything, and here in the postseason we have not had that."
Whatever the reason, the Cardinals, who went 6-0 at Busch Stadium during the playoffs, look like a different team on the road these days.
Take two of their last three games, for example. First, Game 7 of the NL championship series, at home against Houston. The Cardinals were trailing Roger Clemens and the Astros in the sixth inning when Albert Pujols delivered a tying double and Scott Rolen hit a go-ahead homer.
Two clutch hits, and the Cardinals rode the spirit of St. Louis right into the World Series.
"Baseball is a celebration here. It's a special event here. They came to the ballpark to win today," Rolen said afterward, referring to the fans. "They're a big part of our team and they're a big part of what we do."
Then, Game 1 of the World Series in Boston. The Cardinals had rallied from a pair of deficits to tie the score at 9 in the eighth inning when Rolen stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. But he chased a high pitch from reliever Keith Foulke and popped up to third. Jim Edmonds then took a called third strike, ending the threat.
Two of the team's top sluggers seemed to tense up in a key situation.
"We're in one of the historic parks and it's tough not to be excited," Larry Walker said.
Maybe a little too excited. The Cardinals certainly weren't comfortable at chilly Fenway Park on Saturday night.
"The conditions were not great out there. The wind was howling a little bit. You've got to kind of acclimate yourself -- both teams," Rolen said. "It wasn't 70 and clear."
It was the same story in Game 2. Boston made four errors for the second consecutive night, but St. Louis couldn't cash in against Curt Schilling.
The Cardinals have lost their last eight World Series games away from home, dating to 1985 against Kansas City. That ties the Brooklyn Dodgers (1916-41) for the second-longest road losing streak in Series history.
The Washington Senators franchise that later became the Minnesota Twins holds the record with 14 from 1925-91, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
St. Louis probably can't wait to get back to Busch Stadium for Game 3 on Tuesday night.
"We like playing on the road. We love playing at home," La Russa said. "Our fans are going to be crazy and look to give us a boost. But we are disappointed we didn't get a game here or more."
Road games cost the Cardinals in their last World Series, too.
But the Cardinals got wiped out at the noisy Metrodome, outscored 33-12 while losing all four games in Minnesota. St. Louis won its three home games, but that wasn't enough.
A similar trend is developing this October.
After going 105-57 during the regular season, the best record in the majors, the Cardinals opened the playoffs at home with two easy wins over Los Angeles.
They got shut out in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, then closed out the division series with their only road victory of the postseason.
The home team then won all seven games in the NL championship series. St. Louis' powerful lineup managed only seven runs in three games in Houston, getting shut out in Game 5.
"There's no doubt that the enthusiasm of the crowds in both places were a factor in the games. Adrenaline starts kicking in and you get stronger and faster," La Russa said. "I mean, even though we lost three games, that was exciting over there. You had to appreciate how much passion there was. We knew we had it, too. ... I thought we were just going to sneak a win there and we just couldn't."
All this trouble away from home is perplexing because the Cardinals were the best road team in baseball during the season, going 52-29. They won 53 games at Busch Stadium.
That kind of consistency has been missing in October, and the Cardinals don't have much time to find it again. Even though St. Louis had a better regular-season record than Boston, the Red Sox have home-field advantage in the World Series because the American League won the All-Star game.
Boston is proving to be a dominant home team, too. Boosted by their own frenzied crowd, the Red Sox are 5-1 at home this postseason.
"In this league, you do or you don't. People don't look for excuses," La Russa said after Game 1. "I give them credit, we opened the door and they capitalized just about every time."