ST. LOUIS -- Nobody does dramatic quite like Jim Edmonds, but even Edmonds had never served up drama like he did on Wednesday evening. The slugging center fielder hit a two-run, walk-off home run against Dan Miceli in the 12th inning as the Cardinals lived to play one more day, beating the Astros, 6-4, in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
Even Edmonds, a 12-year veteran in his fourth postseason, called it "the biggest hit of my career."
The Cardinals prevailed in their first elimination game of the season, so the battle for the NL pennant will go to a winner-take-all Game 7 in prime time on Thursday night at Busch Stadium. That provides the "other" LCS some well-deserved national exposure. The home team has won every game in this series, and St. Louis is 5-0 in the 2004 playoffs -- the only team without a loss at home.
Edmonds' blast marked the first time in NLCS history that back-to-back games ended with walk-off homers. Jeff Kent ended Game 5 in Houston with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Houston's bullpen had thrown nine shutout innings before Edmonds sent the sellout crowd of 52,144 into Richter-scale delirium with a massive 405-foot shot to right field. It was his third long ball of the 2004 playoffs, and it landed deep in the home bullpen.
The Cards had waited out Houston's impenetrable closer, Brad Lidge, surviving the ninth, 10th and 11th with the right-hander on the mound. Miceli entered the game in the 12th and issued a leadoff walk to Albert Pujols. Scott Rolen popped up, and Edmonds ended the game after three hours, 54 minutes.
"I was just trying to get a hit, actually," said Edmonds. "Obviously, [Pujols] deserves all the respect in the world. [Miceli] kind of wasn't trying to give him anything to hit. I figured if I could hit something hard in the gap or get another base hit, he would run hard to get to third and we would get a chance to score somehow.
Six sluggers have ended NLCS games with walk-off home runs, all in the bottom of the ninth except Jim Edmonds' 12th-inning blast in Game 6:
Johnny Bench, CIN
Game 1, Oct. 6, 1973
Steve Garvey, SD
Game 4, Oct. 6, 1984
Ozzie Smith, STL
Game 5, Oct. 14, 1985
Lenny Dkystra, NYM
Game 3, Oct. 11, 1986
Jeff Kent, HOU
Game 5, Oct. 18, 2004
Jim Edmonds, STL
Game 6, Oct. 20, 2004
"So that's it. I was just looking for a ball to get a good swing at. I wasn't trying to go deep. I was trying to hit the ball hard. Thank God for that. We get to play tomorrow."
Despite a blown save by Jason Isringhausen, it was seven strong innings by the St. Louis bullpen that allowed Edmonds to hit the game-winner. Ray King, Kiko Calero, Isringhausen and Julian Tavarez all played central roles in the drama, allowing one run combined.
Tavarez twirled the final two innings to be credited with the win, hours after Major League Baseball announced that he had been fined for his actions in Game 4 of the series. Tavarez nearly hit Jeff Bagwell with a pitch in that game, soon after he served up Carlos Beltran's game-winning homer.
"I feel fantastic," said Tavarez. "I feel happy. We walked away with a win. We were looking for this. If we lose today, we've got no tomorrow."
Matt Morris survived sometimes shaky command to give the Redbirds five innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He walked three batters and often found himself behind in counts, but prevented the big inning that would have been costly. He gave way to a bullpen that struggled at Minute Maid Park but found its way again -- for the most part -- back at home.
Pujols, meanwhile, did it all with the bat. Again. His two-run homer off starter Pete Munro turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 first-inning lead. He doubled off the wall and scored in the third, but was thrown out trying to score from first on a double one inning later. And his walk to open the 12th set up Edmonds.
Jim Edmonds / CF
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
"There's no hero on this team," Pujols said. "That's the whole idea, why we had such a great year this year during the season and right now in the playoffs. There's no hero."
Like the St. Louis bullpen, the bottom of the Redbirds' batting order also found itself revived after a difficult trip to South Texas. Edgar Renteria snapped a 1-for-the-series funk with three hits, including a critical two-run single, and Reggie Sanders smacked two doubles.
But the biggest difference between the homestanding Redbirds of the Division Series and LCS and the team that played in Houston was simple: the NL's best regular-season bullpen got its mojo back.
King got a big double play in the sixth. Calero rebounded from letting the lead get away in Game 4 to pitch 1 1/3 shutout innings. Isringhausen was charged with a blown save after Bagwell's RBI single in the ninth, but still lasted three innings and held the potent 'Stros to a single run.
"I didn't know what was gonna happen, but I had my speech ready to apologize to everybody for messing up," said Isringhausen, for whom it was the second blown save in as many games. "That's two times in a row. It's just ridiculous for me to do that.
"But in the same sense, it just shows you the character of this team. Tavvy came in with a broken hand and pitched lights-out. ... He just did an amazing job.
And it all worked to put Edmonds in position for his close-up. Of which he certainly made the most.
"This is what it's all about," he said. "What a great feeling. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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