Suppan to make encore Game 7 start
Righty pitched Cards into World Series in '04 decisive match
NEW YORK -- The last time the Cardinals played a seventh game in postseason play, they relied on Jeff Suppan to get them into the World Series, which he did in 2004. The same situation exists Thursday night at Shea Stadium after the Cardinals lost their advantage in the National League Championship Series by losing to the Mets, 4-2, in Wednesday night's Game 6.
Suppan had pitched the Cardinals into a 2-1 lead in this year's NLCS with eight scoreless, three-hit innings in Game 3 at St. Louis. The right-hander, a .193 career hitter who batted .218 with six RBIs during the regular season, also had a perfect game at the plate in St. Louis' 5-0 victory, with a home run and two sacrifices.
If the Cardinals are going to have a tomorrow in this postseason, they'll need Suppan to supply a strong start. He did just that two years ago when the NLCS between the Cardinals and the Astros went to a seventh game Oct. 21, at Busch Stadium.
In that game, Suppan was paired against Houston's Roger Clemens, the eventual NL Cy Young Award winner that year, and came out a winner over the Rocket as the Cardinals advanced to the World Series, where they were swept by the Red Sox.
"We're excited about Jeff going out there," Cards closer Adam Wainwright said. "I've never been to a Game 7 at this level, so I'm looking forward to it. We knew this series was going to be tough, so I'm not surprised we're going to the limit."
"One of the things I said to my players real quickly is that Game 7 starts right now," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "They are getting ready to have the experience of a lifetime if you're in professional sports. You play a Game 7 in a best-of-seven in baseball, basketball and hockey. It's an experience you'll never forget. 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. I'd prefer our club not to go through it obviously, but it's magical. So I'm sure we'll be ready."
"Jeff pitched well his last time out and has pitched well in this situation before," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "We know he'll be ready to go."
Suppan did not speak to reporters after the Game 6 loss, perhaps an indication that he is already focusing on the job at hand, but he stated before Wednesday's game that the Cardinals' concentration is high upon taking the field no matter where they are playing.
"I think any time you have a home crowd that's passionate for the team in any stadium you play in, I mean, that's a part of the game," Suppan said. "I think you have that here in New York. But I also think you have it in other places as well.
"So, as a player coming into another ballpark, our focus is on the field and what we have to do. So, it's not always what ballpark you're playing in or this or that. If your focus is where it needs to be, then you're focusing on what you have to do to contribute."
Two years ago, Suppan pitched six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) and six hits with two walks and six strikeouts in the Cardinals' 5-2 victory over the Astros. The one earned run against him was on a first-inning home run by Houston second baseman Craig Biggio.
Again, Suppan helped himself with the bat by driving in a run with a squeeze bunt in the third inning. Clemens, on the other hand, gave up four earned runs and six hits with no walks and two strikeouts in his six innings.
NLCS Game 7s
|*Home team in bold|
"Jeff has been in this kind of game before and knows how to battle," first baseman Albert Pujols said. "But we need to get him some runs. We can't win if we don't score. It's that simple."
Suppan has had success at Shea Stadium, with a career mark of 1-0 with a 1.56 ERA.
Still, La Russa remained unconvinced that past performance means that much in this series.
"[Tuesday night], you had a guy going to the Hall of Fame [Mets left-hander Tom Glavine] the losing pitcher of the day," La Russa said. "[Wednesday night] you had a Cy Young Award winner [the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter]. What do matchups mean? Baseball, there's no script. I think we have an even chance to win the game as well as the Mets do, and we'll take that going in."
Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.