ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Suppan knows the Red Sox and their hitters on a little bit different level than his Cardinals teammates, having been a part of Boston's run to within one Aaron Boone homer of the World Series last year.
You might say he knows the guys who call themselves "idiots" well enough to call them by name when asked about their hitters.
"They're definitely idiots," Suppan said with a smile Monday afternoon.
Of course, he says it with love, and he makes sure to follow that thought with his true feelings about a hitting lineup that beat up Suppan's rotation mates pretty well the first two games of the 2004 World Series at Fenway Park.
Heading into his Game 3 start against Boston's Pedro Martinez when the World Series comes to St. Louis on Tuesday night, Suppan knows he'll have his hands full.
"They're a very relaxed, very aggressive team," Suppan said, no doubt fully understanding the paradox. "They do a lot of things well and they kind of feed off each other."
That much could be seen in the first two games of this World Series, as the Red Sox racked up 11 runs in the first game and six in the second to take a 2-0 advantage in the series. The Red Sox hammered out 21 hits and, perhaps more impressive, 14 bases on balls in the first two games.
Now it's Suppan's turn to try to stop them. This postseason, Suppan has been the closest thing to a hammer the Cardinals' staff has had.
Suppan started out his October run by winning Game 4 against the Dodgers to clinch the Division Series before putting together two solid efforts in the NLCS. His Game 3 start began with a three-run first inning, but he held on to even things out over six otherwise solid innings, still taking the loss. In Game 7, he played the clincher role again, allowing one earned run in six innings of the Cardinals' 5-2 win over the Astros.
Suppan plans on carrying every bit of that experience into Tuesday's start.
"They definitely will help me; really, all the games I've pitched in this game will help me, and in my career," Suppan said. "I think throwing in those types of situations, being in them before, it always helps you know what to kind of expect, the adrenaline you're going to have, the excitement you're going to have and using that to your benefit."
Each time this postseason, he has had interesting personal stakes. First, the kid who grew up in Encino, Calif., pitched at the Dodger Stadium venue of his youth. Then, in both NLCS starts, he was matched against Roger Clemens, who was an early mentor for him as he came up through the Boston organization.
This time, he'll be facing the Red Sox one year after struggling to a 3-4 mark and 5.57 ERA down the stretch with Boston after being traded from Pittsburgh on July 31, 2003. He was left off their Division Series roster and didn't make an appearance in the ALCS despite being on the roster.
Jeff Suppan / P
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"I didn't pitch very well," Suppan said of his second stint in Boston. "I think that I had a long break, a lot of excitement going back there, and I got out of that groove that I was in when I was with the Pirates. But I think it worked out great. I value all the experience I gained from playing with them to going to the postseason with them. And it's helping me this year."
Boston GM Theo Epstein, who made the deal to bring Suppan to the Red Sox and allowed the right-hander to become a free agent, agreed that Suppan has brought his game back to its previously high level in 2004.
"He definitely deserves a lot of credit for working hard and getting back on track and having a fantastic year this year," Epstein said. "It doesn't always work out. A third of a season does not a career make. He's really bounced back and been an anchor for their staff."
That's why Tony La Russa feels plenty confident in putting Suppan on the mound for what amounts to the Cardinals' biggest start this season.
La Russa knows he'll get a professional effort out of Suppan every time out.
"Jeff has been consistent in how he approaches games," La Russa said. "He needs to make pitches against that lineup, and he's capable."
Said Suppan: "It's definitely a tough lineup. I think you've got to go out there and be on your game."
John Schlegel 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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