- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Another rainout allowed both clubs to use their Game 1 starters, Jeff Weaver and Glavine, on their regular four days' rest, which seemed like more of a break for the Mets because their 40-year-old ace had not fared well in the past on short rest (2-5, 6.75 ERA). But like many things in this NLCS, the expected outcome failed to materialize. Staked to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, Glavine's streak of 16 consecutive scoreless frames this October was snapped by Pujols's lone home run of the series, a solo shot that sparked a game-tying rally. (This was the conclusion of a major subplot, since Pujols had drawn the ire of the Big Apple media by saying Glavine was "not very good" in winning Game 1.)
St. Louis chased Glavine before he could get an out in the fifth and after he allowed what would be the winning run on a Wilson double to rightfield. In beating the future Hall of Famer, Weaver (six innings, two earned runs) would begin a trend of bizarro pitching outings that would continue throughout the series. In Game 6, for instance, the Cardinals were poised to clinch their second pennant in three seasons as Carpenter faced rookie John Maine in a rematch of Game 2 back in Queens. But instead of looking as shell-shocked as he had in his first two postseason starts, Maine escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the first inning when he struck out embattled slugger Jim Edmonds on three pitches. Maine sailed into the sixth inning unscathed to earn the victory.
Carpenter, meanwhile, improved on his previous outing but had to leave for a pinch hitter in the seventh while trailing 2-0. The Mets took a 4-0 lead into the ninth when another Taguchi-Wagner showdown went St. Louis's way--the Cardinals' scrappy pinch hitter ripped a two-out, two-run double that brought the tying run to the plate. This made Taguchi 2 for 2 against Wagner, a fact not lost on New York manager Willie Randolph when deciding who should pitch the ninth inning of Game 7 the next night.
Nobody knew what to expect heading into the final game. The Cardinals had their hottest pitcher, Suppan, set to make his eighth postseason start since 2004, the most in the majors. (That includes his Game 7 victory over Houston's Roger Clemens in '04.) The Mets tabbed Game 4 winner Perez, who, with a 3-13 record and a 6.55 ERA during the regular season, was being touted as perhaps the worst pitcher ever to start a Game 7 and who was forced into duty only because of injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez. A classic finish to an otherwise forgettable series was hoped for, but nobody was holding their breath. Of course, that is exactly what had to happen.
Before the game Randolph told reporters that he had been "floating around" all day in anticipation of Game 7. Once the game started, it would be one of his players, leftfielder Endy Chavez, who would be doing the levitating. With the score tied at one and a runner on first in the top of the sixth, Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen ripped a Perez offering for what appeared to be a home run to left. Chavez raced back, timed his jump perfectly and reached several feet over the wall to snow-cone the ball. "My glove almost came off my hand," said Chavez. "I wanted to keep [the ball] inside my glove. I had to check for it." Edmonds, the base runner, was doubled-off easily at first base to end the threat.
Suppan proved dominant in seven-plus innings of work, securing his status as a series MVP contender (he would win the honor) and putting the game into the hands of the Cardinals' suddenly capable bullpen. As the game headed to the top of the ninth, Randolph was expected to turn to Wagner after Heilman had pitched a scoreless eighth inning. But La Russa still had Taguchi on his bench and, perhaps fearing Wagner vs. Taguchi, Part III, Randolph decided to stick with the righthanded Heilman. "I thought we could go another inning with him and then bring in Billy," says Randolph.
Strangely, the Mets' season would end with their $43 million closer still in the bullpen. Instead, the Cardinals would celebrate on the Shea Stadium turf as their newly anointed closer, rookie Adam Wainwright, struck out New York's best hitter, Beltran, on a wicked 0-2 curveball that painted the outside of the plate.
With only 83 wins, the Cardinals became the second-worst regular-season team to win a league pennant, behind only the 1973 Mets (82 wins). Said La Russa, "We kept telling ourselves, if we get to October, we'll be a dangerous club to play."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]