10/15/2004 12:23 AM ET
From big chill to big thrill
Cards overcome brisk weather to tally four jacks
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
|Scott Rolen watches his two-run homer off Chad Harville in the fifth inning of Game 2. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)
Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen back-to-back HRs: 56K | 350K
Scott Rolen's two-run homer in fifth: 56K | 350K
Larry Walker's two-run homer in fifth: 56K | 350K
ST. LOUIS -- Just like 52,347 bundled-up fans at Busch Stadium on Thursday night, Edgar Renteria had to cope with the coldest playoff weather since Game 4 of the 1997 World Series in Cleveland. That wasn't too hard for him, considering that he was playing shortstop for the Marlins that snowy night in Cleveland.
"I remember we scored a lot of runs that night -- and won it, too. Just like this game," Renteria said after the Cardinals' 6-4 victory over the Astros in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. "It's real hard when you're out there. Weather like that, you have to concentrate, because the ball is wet and you have to take an extra step when you throw. You just have to be prepared."
It was one of the most miserable days in memory for St. Louis playoff baseball. Rain started during the morning rush hour and never really stopped. Once the game finally began after a 28-minute delay, the temperature was 48 degrees and went south from there.
The most notable thing about the conditions was the fact that it was playable at all, and that meant there would be no holdover leading to a Roger Clemens Game 2 start on Friday afternoon. Once it became clear that they would get this game in, and once the parties on the field got a look at a hardy crowd filling the place, players settled in and made the most of it for the evening.
They even managed to send six home runs through the raindrops, not an easy accomplishment on a sunny summer day. The Cardinals hit four -- two by Scott Rolen, and one each from Albert Pujols and Larry Walker -- and the Astros two -- solo shots by Carlos Beltran and Morgan Ensberg.
The six homers tied an NLCS record for a nine-inning game, matching the mark set in 1993 (Phillies-Braves Game 2), 2002 (Cardinals-Giants Game 1) and 2003 (Marlins-Cubs Game 2). So weather was not the only historical footnote.
|The Cardinals and Astros tied an LCS record by slugging six home runs in Game 2. The teams that have combined for six homers in a nine-inning LCS game:|
|NLCS Game 2||ATL (4), PHI (2)||Oct. 7, 1993|
|ALCS Game 5||BAL (3), NYY (3)||Oct. 13, 1996|
|NLCS Game 1||SF (3), STL (3)||Oct. 9, 2002|
|NLCS Game 2||FLA (2), CHC (4)||Oct. 8, 2003|
|ALCS Game 7||NYY (3), BOS (3)||Oct. 16, 2003|
|NLCS Game 2||HOU (2), STL (4)||Oct. 14, 2004|
|Albert Pujols is the only player to homer in two of these record-setting games. Pujols went deep in NLCS Game 2 on Oct. 14, 2004 and in NLCS Game 1 on Oct. 9, 2002.
"It was real cold," said Beltran, who homered just a few minutes after the game began. "It didn't stop raining the whole game. But at the same time, you just have to concentrate. Don't let it bother you."
Astros manager Phil Garner said everyone succeeded in that mission.
"It didn't appear to affect [the game], other than perhaps the pitchers weren't quite as sharp tonight and had a little problem gripping the ball at times," Garner said. "But it didn't appear to be that much of a factor at all tonight."
Rolen, unofficial Mudder of the Night after hitting two home runs, said all it took was a look around the red sea in the stands to shrug off the conditions. A remarkable percentage of the full house was still around to cheer Jason Isringhausen's final out.
"Obviously the weather conditions weren't great," Rolen said. "All night they said it was going to quit raining, and it never stopped. You have 52,000 people sticking it out out there, so it's not too hard for us.
"You just can't keep saying enough about the fans here -- I'm wasting my breath trying. It's probably the best baseball city to play in, no question. When you're out there playing in a game like tonight, you kind of let the weather go."
Cardinals starting pitcher Matt Morris said he tried, but conceded that it was difficult for a starter in a routine. Weather reports were the order of the day from the moment he awoke. Morris allowed a run in three of his five innings, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, stranded two men in the third, threw two wild pitches and balked once.
"It was one of those rain days where you lay in bed for a while and try to wait it out," Morris said. "I was hoping we'd get it in, though. I didn't want to have to go through all of this [start preparation] again tomorrow. The anticipation was the hardest part."
Just for the record, the weather forecast for Game 3 on Saturday afternoon at Houston's Minute Maid Park is: Perfect. They have a retractable roof.
As Houston shortstop Jose Vizcaino left through the clubhouse tunnel on his way to the team bus and on to that perfect baseball climate, he was asked what the conditions were like out there on a sloppy and cold Thursday along the Mississippi River.
"They were great," he said, without breaking stride or even a grin. "Not a problem at all. Just glad to be out there. It's the playoffs."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.