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Wonders never cease (cont.)

Posted: Sunday October 22, 2006 2:07AM; Updated: Sunday October 22, 2006 3:30AM
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Anthony Reyes retired 17 Tigers in a row during one stretch of his Game 1 gem.
Anthony Reyes retired 17 Tigers in a row during one stretch of his Game 1 gem.

Duncan is widely credited with the pitching maturation of Reyes and the postseason emergence of reclamation project Jeff Weaver, who will start Game 2 on Sunday night. Before the postseason began, the shaky Cardinals could count on Cy Young hopeful Chris Carpenter and, maybe, Jeff Suppan. That was it.

Add Weaver into that mix now, though, with Reyes, and the Cardinals could be a completely different team than the one that many figured would be swamped by the Tigers in the Series.

"The way I look at it is, if they have the physical ability to compete up here -- which both of those guys do -- then all it becomes is execution," Duncan said. "If your game plan is right and your approach is right, and you execute, then you're going to be successful."

Reyes was knocked around a little in the first inning -- a double grounded down the left-field line from Craig Monroe, a walk to Magglio Ordonez, a hard RBI single to right from Carlos Guillen -- but he adjusted after that, using more fastballs (he said the Tigers were looking breaking stuff) and challenging the overeager Detroit hitters. He settled down with an eight-pitch second inning and allowed only a seventh-inning single between the first inning and Monroe's leadoff homer in the ninth.

He was so under control, and the Tigers so out of it, that even as late as the eighth inning he blew through the Detroit lineup in just seven pitches.

"I think we got in a little funk when we got behind, that we were going to hit a quick home run," manager Jim Leyland said of his team, which was second in the American League this season in strikeouts and next to last in walks. "We didn't play well. We didn't swing the bats well."

It didn't hurt Reyes' chances at winning this game, of course, that the Cardinals gave him plenty of support. Third baseman Scott Rolen, hitting just .188 this postseason before Game 1, pulled a second-inning fastball from rookie Justin Verlander into the seats in left to answer the Tigers' early score. And Leyland decided to pitch to Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols -- will these guys never learn? -- in the third inning. Pujols punched a first-pitch fastball into the right-field stands for a two-run homer that gave the Cardinals all the cushion they'd need.

Afterward, Reyes met with reporters in a cramped visiting clubhouse, flat hat pulled low, striped knee-highs still pulled taut. He's just glad to be here, he said. He just tried to keep things simple. He's just happy to contribute, he added.

Reyes was originally drafted by the Tigers, but an injured elbow that he suffered in college at Southern California prevented him from signing. All he wanted to do this spring was make it onto the Cardinals' major-league roster, but he didn't pitch well enough in spring training to do it.

"It's always been a struggle during my life," Reyes said, "to get where I want to be."

Reyes is there now, and thanks to him, the Cardinals are a game up in the World Series.

Just what we all figured in an incomprehensible postseason like this one.

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