Still, Zumaya was only one out away from getting the Tigers to the ninth inning tied, and the guy was money all year in this kind of spot. Batters hit .143 against him with runners in scoring position and two outs, and .083 in the 12 at-bats against him with a runner at second base. Eckstein? The little dude had 23 RBIs all year in 500 at-bats.
Zumaya would use nothing but his bully of a fastball. The first, at 99 mph, just missed. So did the next. Eckstein was letting these pitches go like an old woman picking through fruit at a grocery stand; they looked good, but not exactly right. Eckstein took a third fastball at 99 mph, and this one was callled a strike by home plate umpire Mike Winters. Now Zumaya came back with still another heater, this one at 100 mph. Winters called this one a ball.
Four pitches into the at-bat, Eckstein still hadn't swung the bat and was ahead on the count 3-and-1, which perturbed Zumaya right down to the hair on his chinny-chin-chin.
"On my behalf I thought I was throwing strikes," Zumaya said
Said Wainwright of Eckstein, "He has an amazing ability to take pitches that are just inches out of the strike zone, whether they're 97, 98 or whatever."
Without swinging the bat, Eckstein somehow had steered the duel into his favor. Now he had pushed Zumaya into a spot in which the righthander had to throw toward the fat of the strike zone.
"I had to throw it right down the middle,'' Zumaya said, in what sounded as close to a complaint of Winters' zone as he would come. "You have to adjust to the umpire's strike zone and I had to throw it right down the middle."
So the big guy threw one 100 miles and hour and the little guy won.
"David Eckstein," Miles said, "can turn around a fastball as good as anybody."
Eckstein drilled a liner toward the gap in left centerfield. Monroe dashed for it. It was an out, a fairly easy one, if he had been playing normal depth. But Rodriguez's gaffe on what was ruled a wild pitch, the one that sent Miles to second base, had forced Monroe to play more shallow. Now he ran with urgency and hope. He dove and extended his gloved hand toward the baseball. Maddingly, it kissed the very fingertips of his glove -- a faint goodbye kiss -- and fell to the wet turf. Miles dashed home with the tie-breaking run and Eckstein cruised into second base with a double. It was his fourth hit of the night, tying a franchise World Series record, and the third double of the game by a guy who had only 18 of them all year. Zumaya had allowed only two doubles to righthanded hitters all year.
"I was just hoping I would find a way to put the barrel of the bat on the ball," Eckstein said. "And fortunately I was able to do it and it felt good."
It was a victory for the Cardinals and a victory for the little man. As Miles said, "He's a great role model. Everyone I talk to I tell them Eckstein is not just a good little player. He's just a good player -- period. He's an idol to all the young players who people think might not be big enough to make it."
In 2002, Miles was in the White Sox minor league system rooting for Eckstein as his Angels won a world championship. "He became my idol," Miles said. And somewhere there is another guy in the minors this October, or a small college or high school or a 10-year-old youth team or anybody down the baseball ladder who looks at Eckstein and sees the tremendous stature of the man. With one more win, Eckstein will have served as the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter for two world championship teams. Now that makes him a very big man in the history of the game.