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Cards' big bats crucial in NLCS
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10/11/2004 3:21 AM ET
Cards' big bats crucial in NLCS
Redbirds need more consistent production
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Albert Pujols put the Cardinals ahead for good in Game 4 with a three-run homer. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
LOS ANGELES -- In the mad, mad St. Louis post-victory clubhouse on Sunday night, Scott Rolen and Larry Walker showered each other with champagne.

The two shook up bottles and sprayed them. When that was done, they poured the remaining contents over the others' head.

The joy was evident after the Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers from their National League Division Series in four games. It will be short-lived. The Cards open the NL Championship Series on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium against Monday's survivor, Atlanta or Houston. Rolen, who was 0-for-12 in the just-ended series, knows he's going to have to pick up the pace.

"If I can go oh-for-whatever it was and we win the next series, I'll take it," said Rolen, who is still recovering from the aftermath of the strained right calf muscle that plagued him during the last month of the regular season. "But I don't want to take that chance again."

The Cardinals won 105 games this season and easily vanquished the Dodgers, who hit .198 and had a 5.82 ERA in the four games. With all that, Los Angeles pitching still held the big three in the Cardinals lineup -- Albert Pujols, Rolen and Jim Edmonds -- to 8-for-42 with three homers and seven RBIs.

Save for Pujols, who won the series Sunday with his three-run homer that secured a 6-2 Cardinals victory, the other two big bats were mostly silent.

Walker, who was obtained from Colorado on Aug. 6, helped offset their lack of production by going 5-for-15 with two homers and three RBIs, both homers coming in the first game of the series.

"I thought about that in the ninth inning. I looked up and I saw that Scotty hadn't had a hit yet," Walker said. "He's still struggling. He was out for 16 days. It's tough to jump back in there. We'll worry about their production when the next series starts. Perhaps they'll get hot by then and somebody else will start slowing down."

The Cardinals hit just .254 themselves in the series and were led by shortstop Edgar Renteria, who hit .455 (5-for-11) with four RBIs.

During the regular season, the Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds trio led a Cardinals lineup that hit an NL-leading .278 and amassed 214 home runs, second best by one behind the Phillies.

Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals
 GAME LOCATION DAY DATE TIME (ET) TV FINAL
Game 1 at St. Louis         STL 10, HOU 7
Game 2 at St. Louis Thu. Oct. 14 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 3 at Houston Sat. Oct. 16 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 4 at Houston Sun. Oct. 17 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 5* at Houston Mon. Oct. 18 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 6* at St. Louis Wed. Oct. 20 4:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 7* at St. Louis Thu. Oct. 21 8:00 p.m. FOX  
 * If necessary

All three hit above .300, with Pujols leading in that category at .331. All three had more than 30 homers, Pujols also leading in that category with 46. And all three topped the 110 RBI mark, Rolen nipping Pujols in that category, 124 to 123.

Pujols hit .333 (5-for-15) and Edmonds hit .267 (4-for-15) in the first round of the playoffs. Despite his hitless series, Rolen walked six times, three of them on Sunday.

"Even when he's struggling, Scott will do something," said Tony La Russa, who has now managed the Cards to the NLCS for the fourth time (1996, 2000, 2002, 2004), but has yet to get them into the World Series. "That's why I like him in that fourth spot. He'll get some bases on balls. He's going to make something good happen."

The Cardinals haven't been to the World Series since 1987 and haven't won it all since 1982, when they outlasted the Brewers in seven games.

To do it this year, they may need all their big bats in harmony.

"They can survive the NLCS, yes they can," said Dodgers manager Jim Tracy. "They have an awful lot of weapons over there. And just because a few of those guys were held down in that series, that doesn't mean that come Wednesday a few of them won't wake up."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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