10/11/2004 3:47 AM ET
Cardinals short hops
St. Louis shows dominance in many areas
LOS ANGELES -- The National League Division Series began with this commonly asked question: "Are the Cardinals a dominant team or a vulnerable team?"
Now that they have improved to 5-1 in all-time Division Series play with Sunday's 6-2 clincher at Dodger Stadium, the former label still looks pretty applicable. Larry Walker showed another dimension with his two Game 1 homers and then outscoring Los Angeles himself in Game 4, Albert Pujols and Edgar Renteria had huge series, and the pitching was dominating with few exceptions.
There were some areas of concern that figure to gain attention as the Cardinals prepare for their NL Championship Series that starts Wednesday at Busch Stadium. Scott Rolen had a dozen goose eggs at the plate; Jim Edmonds had a series-high nine strikeouts and Tony Womack was just 3-for-19 at the top of the order. Jason Marquis' Game 2 start was the shortest of his season (3 1/3 innings).
Overall, though, one has to look pretty hard to find that much of a concern. The Cardinals won the best-of-five series in four games, and they scored eight, eight and six runs in their three victories. The bullpen was mostly untouchable. The starters were generally solid, and Jeff Suppan finished his first-ever postseason outing by retiring the final 14 batters he faced.
Dominant or vulnerable? The team that Walker said was on "cruise control" after that early division clincher just cruised through the first round of the playoffs.
Stats all, folks
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
A look at the key statistics from the Dodgers-Cardinals NLDS.
Who was hot?
||Suppan finished in style for Redbird rotation
||Edgar Renteria led the way at .455 (5-for-11)
||scored at least six in three of the games
||a team full of Gold Glovers -- and showing it
Who was not?
||.313 BA (5-for-15), 6 R, 2 HR
||reached base safely four times in clincher
||.455 (5-for-11), 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R
||started and finished the big NLDS offense
Behind the numbers
||six walks if you're looking for silver lining
||3.1 IP, 8.10 ERA, 3 ER, 4 BB, 0 K
||club's only subpar start; his shortest outing of year
Mike Matheny's postseason hitting streak finally was stopped at 12 games. It was the longest active streak in the Majors, so Bernie Williams of the Yankees takes over that distinction with 11 in a row. Matheny was 0-for-4, two groundouts and two popups.
With men on first and third and the count 3-and-1 to Pujols, the Dodgers chose to go after him instead of putting him on to get to series-hitless Rolen. Pujols hammered Wilson Alvarez's pitch for a three-run homer, breaking open a 2-2 game.
Suppan's pitch count was growing in the third inning when Jayson Werth walked and moved to third on Steve Finley's single. Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly tied it at 2, and there was bullpen activity. Suppan stayed in, and he retired the next 13 batters he faced.
Try, try, try, try again
The Cardinals are 0-3 in League Championship Series under manager Tony La Russa, so they will try to forge new ground when they open the NLCS on Wednesday against either Atlanta or Houston. It will mark the third time out of these four LCS appearances that they have had home-field advantage, too. Here are the past LCS results in the La Russa years:
Saving it for the NLCS
Isringhausen's only other appearance of the series was garbage time at the end of the Game 1 romp. In that one, he gave up a solo homer to Tom Wilson. The finale was a 6-2 score when he entered, not a save situation, but the Cardinals had the man on the mound they wanted at the end of this series, and they know that he will be opposite a strong closer as well in either John Smoltz or Lidge.
There have been only three saves in this Major League postseason so far -- one each by Keith Foulke of Boston, Joe Nathan of Minnesota and Brad Lidge of Houston. Jason Isringhausen made two appearances against the Dodgers and did not have a save situation, although he did polish off Los Angeles in the ninth inning Sunday -- inducing Beltre to fly to center, striking out Shawn Green, walking Milton Bradley and then ending it with a strikeout of Alex Cora.
"It's just another great accomplishment for a very good team. It's something we were looking forward to, just taking each step. Some guys really stepped up. Suppan really stepped up, and Albert, it was very fitting after what he did this whole season."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. Billy Sample of MLB.com Radio contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.