10/18/05 1:37 AM ET
Eckstein starts fateful rally in ninth
Leadoff man singles with Cardinals down to last strike
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
From the brink
|Five teams have won postseason games after being one out away from elimination.|
2005 NLCS, Game 5: Cardinals 5, Astros 4
|*1992 NLCS Game 7, Braves 3, Pirates 2|
|*1986 World Series, Game 6: Mets 6, Red Sox 5|
|*1986 ALCS, Game 5: Red Sox 7, Angels 6|
|1911 World Series, Game 5: Giants 4, Athletics 3|
|*=Team would go on to win series.|
Then came the ninth, and Eckstein had a mental plan that would turn out to work marvelously."The one thing I didn't want to do was to get any type of jumpiness, any type of anything into my body besides just focus on the baseball," Eckstein said. When it came down to two strikes, Eckstein wasn't feeling anything but relaxed, even if he and everyone else in Minute Maid Park was engulfed in a cauldron of sound and tension. "They were so loud, and so just stepping to the plate, just understanding it's you versus him, and that's all that really matters at that point," Eckstein said. "You know, just find a way. Once again, it wasn't pretty. It found a hole. We're just fortunate it was a hit." And the Cardinals were fortunate to have a guy at the plate who could turn the most intense pressure situation into a relaxed setting for hitting. Teammate Larry Walker, who has seen his share of pressure situations over the course of his 17-plus years in the big leagues, knows Eckstein's frame of mind had a lot to do with his ability to come through in that situation. "It's tough to believe he was calm, because he's such a hyper little bugger," Walker said. "He's hyper, but he's a very focused individual. He's focused from the first pitch to the last pitch, so I couldn't doubt that's what he was feeling.
"I know [Sunday] night against Lidge, I had a 3-2 count and I actually felt really relaxed," Walker explained. "I didn't hear much. Everything just kind of felt right. You have at-bats in those situations when you feel that way."La Russa said that's what the great competitors do, and in Eckstein's first year in St. Louis, the Cardinals have found that's exactly what Eckstein is. "I remember when Will Clark came here in 2002 and he had a great piece of advice for some of the guys going a little nuts," La Russa said. "He just said, 'Remember to breathe, you've got to remember to breathe.' In the end, David has been there, he's committed to it, and he looked like he was just having his best at-bat." And, thanks in large part to that at-bat by Eckstein, the Cardinals are still breathing.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.