ST. LOUIS -- Take a look at which game Jeff Suppan is scheduled to pitch in the latter stages of the World Series. That may be the one you want to attend if you're a Cardinals fan.
Jason Isringhausen is the man who closes games for the Cards, but Suppan has become the man who closes out series. He did it again on Thursday night, pitching six strong innings as St. Louis clinched the National League Championship Series with a 5-2 win over the Astros. Suppan also notched the win in the finale of the Division Series, Game 4 against Los Angeles, in his first career playoff start.
The man considered something of an afterthought by the Red Sox in the 2003 postseason, not getting in a single game in two rounds, is becoming a big-game pitcher for the Redbirds in '04.
"Everybody's talking about me and Scotty [Rolen] here, but you need to give credit to Suppan," Pujols said. "I mean, this guy made some pitches out there. He got in trouble and he made some pitches. Unbelievable to keep us in the game this day."
Suppan wasn't thrilled with his command after the game, which tells you more about his standards than about his performance. In what was by far the biggest game of his career, he held the powerful Astros to two runs (one earned) on three hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two.
Known more for his control and his savvy than his stuff, Suppan made his ball move on Thursday. His fastball tailed and his breaking pitches danced and darted. He outpitched Roger Clemens, a future Hall of Famer.
"You've got to pitch with what you have and know what your fastball is doing, know what your curveball is doing, know what your slider is doing," Suppan said. "I missed a lot on location, but when it came down to getting that last pitch to get a guy out, I was able to make it."
Jeff Suppan / P
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
For the third time in as many playoff starts, Suppan took a little while to get sharp. He fell behind on a leadoff home run by Craig Biggio. He saw another run cross the board on a bizarre play where Jim Edmonds tried to throw out Carlos Beltran at third on a flyout. The ball got away from Rolen, and Beltran scored.
But that was it. Suppan worked out of the aforementioned no-out, men-on-the-corners jam in the fourth and went on to retire the last nine hitters he faced.
"They have a very good lineup, but Supp has been rising to the occasion," said catcher Mike Matheny. "And he did exactly that [in Game 7]. He kept us in that game and gave us a chance for our guys to do it."
So to the list of names like Darrell Porter, Tom Lawless and Joaquin Andujar, it may soon be time to add another Cardinals postseason hero.
"Suppan came up big, boy," Isringhausen said. "That's twice now in the postseason. He's a postseason pitcher. That's all you've got to look at."
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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