ST. LOUIS -- Tony Womack lived up to his own prediction on Thursday. After he was removed from Wednesday night's Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with lower back spasms, Womack was asked whether he'd miss the decisive Game 7.
"No way," he said. "No how."
And there he was in the Cardinals' lineup on Thursday night, though in a slightly different spot in the batting order. Womack batted seventh, while Edgar Renteria took Womack's usual leadoff slot. Manager Tony La Russa explained that the move was protection in case Womack's back flared up again and the second baseman needed to be removed from the game.
"If something happens during the game and you have to remove him, that puts [Hector] Luna in the one-hole, giving him the extra at-bat, and I don't think that gives us our best shot."
Luna, a rookie, would have gotten the start at second base in Womack's place, and he would be the replacement should Womack leave the game. Marlon Anderson will be held back for pinch-hitting opportunities.
Sanders in again: One move La Russa chose not to make -- again -- was to put Roger Cedeno in the lineup. Instead, he kept Reggie Sanders in left field against Houston starter Roger Clemens, despite Cedeno's outstanding career statistics against Clemens.
La Russa said that Sanders' recent performance made the decision even easier than for Game 3, when he also kept Cedeno back as a pinch-hitting option. Sanders had two doubles in Game 6, and he ripped two balls in Game 5 that Astros defenders made excellent plays on.
"Reggie is competing as well as anybody on the field on either side," the manager said. "He doesn't have a lot of at-bats against Clemens -- he's only 1-for-5 -- and the other day he took some good swings. He plays defense, he runs the bases."
All hands on deck: Game 6 starter Matt Morris was the only Cardinals pitcher considered unavailable for Game 7. The team had already revealed that Jason Marquis would be in the bullpen for both Games 6 and 7 after Marquis started Game 4. However, La Russa said that Game 5 starter Woody Williams would also be an option, if necessary -- though only as a last resort.
Jason Marquis / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
"I would more [likely] use Marquis," La Russa said before the game. "He's rested. I would use Woody -- it's hard to believe -- unless we have one of these ridiculous games."
Vina visits: It's been old-home week around Busch Stadium for Games 6 and 7. Former Cardinals reliever Luther Hackman visited on Wednesday and Thursday, and he even spent some time in the home clubhouse after Game 6. But a bigger name in recent Cards history showed up on Thursday: second baseman Fernando Vina, who left as a free agent for Detroit after the 2003 season.
Vina received big hugs from a number of his old teammates and chatted with general manager Walt Jocketty, as well as members of the field staff and media. He spent four years with the Cardinals, winning two Gold Gloves and serving as the team's primary leadoff man. He hit .333 in five playoff series with St. Louis. Vina is currently trying to rehab from a knee injury. He played only 29 games for the Tigers in 2004.
Carp throws: Right-hander Chris Carpenter threw another bullpen session on Thursday, his second since injuring his arm on Sept. 18. Carpenter remains on track to be medically cleared for competition if the Cardinals are able to make the World Series, though La Russa declined to comment on whether the right-hander would be on the roster for the next round.
"[Pitching coach Dave Duncan] and I have talked about it, and I think we know what our recommendation is going to be," he said. "I hope we get a chance to make 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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