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Woody not moody

Injuries help Williams keep Game 2 loss in perspective

Posted: Friday October 11, 2002 7:47 AM
Updated: Friday October 11, 2002 9:34 AM
  Woody Williams Woody Williams made just two mistakes, but Rich Aurilia hit both for home runs. Al Bello/Getty Images

By Andrea Woo, Sports Illustrated

ST. LOUIS -- His team had dropped two games at home against the Giants and he had taken the loss in Game 2 of the NLCS, but Cardinals pitcher Woody Williams still managed a smile Thursday night.

A teammate's car was blocked in by another vehicle and as the player frantically scanned the Cardinals' clubhouse for the owner of the offending ride, Williams grinned and hollered over, "Just take a cab."

You can't blame Williams for refusing to be gloomy. After all, the 4-1 loss to the Giants was his first start in nearly a month and he gave the Cardinals a six-inning, seven-strikeout performance. He held a team that had scored nine runs the night before, including seven off ace Matt Morris, to just six hits, his only mistakes a pair of home runs by Rich Aurilia.

"Woody pitched a great game," said shortstop Fernando Vina. "Aurilia hit a couple of pitches that were pretty good, but that was it. He pitched a great game and picked us up big time."

That the Cardinals appeared even slightly upbeat after falling into a 2-0 hole shows their respect for Williams. The 36-year-old right-hander has battled back from injury numerous times in his career, always coming through with a strong performance when needed. Despite Thursday's loss, Williams showed the St. Louis pitching rotation has life beyond Morris.

Williams was scratched for the NL Divisional Series after pulling a muscle in his left side, but he said he felt no pain in his first start since Sept. 20. The only discomfort would've come from seeing St. Louis -- a team that scored 26 runs in three games against the Diamondbacks -- unable to cross the plate even once with him on the mound. As good as Williams was, the Cardinals' offense was never able to crack his flawless counterpart, Jason Schmidt.

"He was unbelievable, throwing 95, 98 mph," Williams said of Schmidt. "But I put us in a hole. I got beat. I don't feel like I did my job. At the same time, he pitched his heart out."

Williams may take the fall for Game 2's loss, but with teammates patting him on the back and telling him he did a great job, he knows things could've been a lot worse than giving up two home runs.

In 2000, Williams developed an aneurysm under his right armpit. At first, it wasn't just his career at stake, but his life. "I'm just thankful and very blessed that I had the opportunity to pitch tonight," he said after Game 2.

Since recovering from the aneurysm, Williams has put life in perspective. He said he realized that he had to strive to do better, but still have fun. Focus, but still smile. Williams seems to have stuck to that belief: He won't make excuses for earning the loss -- or stop chuckling at his teammates.


 
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