10/14/2004 8:32 PM ET
'Pen holds off Astros, but Kline hurt
Southpaw leaves after two hitters; Calero clutch in win
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
|Steve Kline departs after surrendering a pair of hits to lead off the sixth. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Kiko Calero on his clutch performance
Cardinals' strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out: 56K | 350K
ST. LOUIS -- His left forefinger was red and swollen, and there was a grim expression on Cardinals reliever Steve Kline's face.
Although he threw -- well, tried to throw -- in the sixth inning of Thursday night's Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, the chronic torn tendon in his finger meant numbness, pain and virtually no control, and Kline was lifted after giving up two singles.
Kline was happy teammate Kiko Calero helped him out of the jam by retiring the side without a run scoring, but the 32-year-old left-hander says his injury will need to be examined by a doctor on Friday.
This isn't good news for the St. Louis bullpen, which staved off the Astros over the final four frames in the Cardinals' 6-4 victory on Thursday, giving them a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series that resumes on Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Kline gave it a game try, and that ugly finger kind of symbolized those late innings.
They weren't pretty, with Calero giving up a double and a run, and closer Jason Isringhausen walking Carlos Beltran and Jeff Kent in the ninth before getting Morgan Ensberg on a flyout to right.
"It hasn't swollen up until the end of the season," said Kline. "It's not a fun thing. I tried to grip it [the ball], but there's no feeling there. They've tried to ice it to get the swelling out, but there's nothing left in it. I didn't do well tonight, but it was Kiko who shut the door, and the other guys did an unbelievable job."
Kline's injury has been diagnosed as a 70 percent tear of the flexor tendon in the index finger, and at the moment he says it's the worst it's felt in two years.
"It feels like a balloon -- all puffed up -- and I can't really grip the ball," said Kline, who made 67 appearances during the regular season but missed the final month with a strained groin and the finger problem. "My velocity was down. I don't know if I'll pitch in the series, because I can't bend it. It's as straight as an arrow."
Despite the effort, the Cardinals pulled him after two batters and in came Calero. On Eric Brunlett's sacrifice-bunt attempt, first baseman Albert Pujols picked it up and threw to third to erase Jose Vizcaino.
"You know what, when [Brunlett] bunted, I thought I had the ball," Calero said. "But I heard Pujols say, 'I got it, Kiko.' And then he threw to the third baseman. It was a great play, really, but he's been doing that all year."
|With his second save of the series, Jason Isringhausen took over second place on the postseason saves list for active pitchers:|
|Rivera's 32 postseason saves are also the most of any pitcher in history, more than twice as many as Dennis Eckersley, who is second on the all-time list with 15.
Craig Biggo struck out, but after a walk to Carlos Beltran, Jeff Bagwell flied to right.
"When I came into the game, I was thinking about a ground-ball double play. But when they bunted, Albert made a great play, and I know I got this guy," said Calero, who laughed his stint wasn't the best he's had in baseball. "Nah. I do much better job in Winter League, Puerto Rico and Caribbean series.
"I know against Biggio and Bagwell I've been doing good this year and last year, too. So I said, 'Maybe this is my chance to do good again,' " said the 29-year-old right-hander. "Against Beltran, I knew I was going to walk him -- no way I was going to let him get a hit."
While some players may pooh-pooh the game's constant drizzle and mid-40-degree temperatures, Calero admitted it was a challenge. This is a summer game, but football weather prevailed.
"It was pretty hard because the whole game it was raining, but when I get to the mound, I told myself I needed to do good," said Calero. "I just think about me and the catcher, not about the weather."
While Calero would allow a run in the seventh on Lance Berkman's double and Ensberg's RBI single, Julian Tavarez blanked the Astros with a 1-2-3 eighth.
Isringhausen had mild trouble, but the closer still earned his second save of the series.
Kline, by then on the bench and with his finger still numb, could breathe a sigh of relief. It was the best he felt all night.
"Giving up only one run to that team was a job well done," said the veteran. "Izzy knew what he was doing -- he was being smart with the guys."
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.