Cards, Mets battle for Fall Classic berth
NLCS comes down to Game 7, with Suppan opposing Perez
NEW YORK -- Seventh game heaven.Baseball hasn't had it for two years. Baseball fans can't get enough of it. And although the Cardinals may not regard it as a heavenly event, they and the Mets will decide the National League pennant on Thursday night in the ultimate game of the NLCS. Jeff Suppan of the Cardinals will face Mets left-hander Darren Oliver Perez. Who? Well, New York manager Willie Randolph has chosen to go with Oliver Perez, who pitched credibly in winning Game 4. But he will be quick to change to Darren Oliver, who had tendered a brilliant six-inning relief effort in a Game 3 started by Steve Trachsel. "I'm happy to get the ball for the last game," said Perez, meaning the last game of the NLCS, which New York hopes will not really turn into the last game. Is momentum, not to mention the uplifting frenzy of 57,000 fans, now with the Mets? "Who knows?" shrugged Shawn Green. "Momentum has shifted so much this whole series." History is not with the Cardinals. Under such circumstances -- a Game 6 loss setting up Game 7 -- the last 11 road teams have lost. The last team to safely ride that wave were the 1975 Reds in the World Series, winning in Boston. This will be MLB's first Game 7 since 2004, when both Championship Series -- Red Sox over Yankees, Cardinals over Astros -- went the distance. Randolph had no qualms about going with Perez, seeing in him a potential similar to what John Maine realized in his superb 5 1/3-inning shutout turn in Wednesday night's 4-2 victory in Game 6. "He's done a nice job for us since he's been here," Randolph said of Perez, "very similar to Johnny Maine in a lot of ways. He's throwing the ball well. "He needs to give us another quality start and just go with everything we've got."
A man who has lived many Game 7s in Yankee pinstripes, Randolph said with a twinkle in his eyes, "[The] seventh game is exciting, and we're looking forward to that challenge."Quickly moving beyond the disappointment of having to play it, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa delivered a similar message about Game 7 to his players in the immediate aftermath of the Game 6 defeat. "It's an experience you'll never forget," La Russa told them. "It will be one of the most enjoyable things, especially if you do it right as far as getting ready and doing the best that you can. You'll never forget it. " Later, La Russa said, "I'd prefer our club to not go through it, obviously. But it's magical." Suppan, whom La Russa had hoped to hold back to start Game 1 of the World Series, will now have to pitch in to try to get the Cardinals there. The veteran right-hander was superb in his Game 3 start in Busch Stadium, blanking the Mets through eight innings of a 5-0 victory. "We'll have our hands full," Green said. "He threw great against us there."
NLCS Game 7s
|*Home team in bold|
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.