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Force to Reckon With
Melissa Segura
November 08, 2006
FOLLOWING A LATE-SEASON SWOON, THE CARDINALS WON THE NL DIVISION SERIES FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT SEASON
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November 08, 2006

Force To Reckon With

FOLLOWING A LATE-SEASON SWOON, THE CARDINALS WON THE NL DIVISION SERIES FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT SEASON

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GAME 1 AT SAN DIEGO
STL 000 311 000 5 12 0
SD 000 001 000 1 6 0
GAME 2 AT SAN DIEGO
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GAME 3 AT ST. LOUIS
SD 000 300 000 3 10 0
STL 000 000 010 1 5 2
GAME 4 AT ST. LOUIS
SD 200 000 000 2 9 1
STL 200 004 00X 6 7 0

SO WHAT if Sir Isaac Newton died 92 years before Abner Doubleday took his first breath, 118 years before Alexander Joy Cartwright wrote the foundations for modern-day baseball in his "knickerbocker rules" or 279 years before the St. Louis Cardinals would open their second consecutive postseason against the San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series--the dude sure knew his baseball.

In formulating his motion laws, Newton not only explained the basis of classical mechanics but also the arc of St. Louis's season. As the team entered the final 11 days of the season, the Cardinals watched their 8 �-game lead over the Houston Astros shrivel to just a half game with only three left to play. It seemed Newton's law of gravity rather than motion ruled the team's spiraling downward on a seven-game losing streak. The Busch faithful, known to be too polite to heckle visiting teams, now booed their own.

NEWTON'S FIRST LAW OF MOTION: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

The only uniform motion for the Cardinals on the morning of Sept. 30 seemed to be down--and fast--in the standings. They had lost eight of their previous 10 games, been shut out through seven innings and now trailed Milwaukee with just four outs remaining in their second-to-last regular-season game. That is, until manager Tony La Russa summoned an external force, in the form of free agent Scott Spiezio.

In many ways the trajectory of Spiezio's career mirrored the path of the Cardinals' season. When he was a first baseman with the Angels, his three-run Game 6 blast was the high point for the World Series team. But just four seasons after crushing that historic home run for Anaheim, Spiezio found himself on the scrap heap of minor league free agents. When he learned that St. Louis had invited him to spring training, he immediately went to a hair salon and dyed his soul patch what he calls Cardinal Red. "I didn't want them to change their mind," he said of the Cards' decision.

Now with two down and the bases loaded against Milwaukee, La Russa sent Spiezio to pinch-hit for catcher Yadier Molina. On a 1-and-2 pitch from Brewers righthander Francisco Cordero, Spiezio's vector to rightfield scored three runs and cut St. Louis's magic number to one. The triple sealed a 3-2 win, and an Astros loss the next day gave the Cardinals the division and a postseason berth.

NEWTON'S SECOND LAW: Force = Mass � Acceleration

St. Louis had momentum from Spiezio's season-shifting triple, but what about the force? Who would provide that as the Cardinals flew to San Diego for Games 1 and 2 against the Padres? Even with Albert Pujols's MVP-caliber performance and Chris Carpenter a safe bet to win the NL Cy Young Award for the second straight year, the Cards still muddled to an 83-78 performance.

In Game 1 Carpenter logged seven strikeouts, and Pujols provided the obligatory home run in a 5-1 victory, but in Game 2 Jeff Weaver emerged as the Cardinals' force.

If force required mass and acceleration, Weaver possessed both. The mass existed in the sheer weight and volume of Weaver's struggles throughout the 2006 season. Like Spiezio, Weaver was a fallen Angel out of Anaheim. The Angels designated Weaver for assignment on June 30 after he was pummeled by hitters to a 3-10 record and a 6.29 ERA in 16 games--all major league worsts for the journeyman righthander. His debut with St. Louis on July 17 against the Atlanta Braves, who torched him for six earned runs in four innings, did little to help Weaver's case.

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