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10/20/06 2:49 AM ET

Cards plan to savor Series with Tigers

While similarities abound, Redbirds don't expect replay of '04

NEW YORK -- It's all familiar. The last-possible-moment clinch, the late-night flight to the American League city with a workout looming after a too-short night of sleep, even the uncertainty about the starting rotation. As the Cardinals head on to the World Series for the second time in three years, there's no denying they've been here before.

The difference? This time they're going to have fun with it. They face the American League champion Tigers beginning on Saturday night in Detroit.

The Cards were swept in the 2004 World Series, arriving late in Boston and dropping two games before they knew what hit them. This time around, they're planning to show the baseball world a lot more.

"In 2004, it felt like it slipped by us a little bit," said Scott Rolen. "It felt like we were down 2-0 before we really knew what happened. Maybe we were a little shell-shocked.

"This opportunity, I'm going to enjoy being in the World Series. The last time, in 2004, this is a terrible thing to say, but it wasn't enjoyable. It was really a grind."

There's one huge element that the Cardinals have going for them this time around, that they didn't have in 2004. Ace Chris Carpenter, sidelined for the entire '04 postseason, will get to make at least one start. When he pitches -- expected to be in Game 3 -- it will be Carpenter's first World Series appearance.

"I can't wait," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be so much fun. We're going to go out and play our butts off, just like we've done the whole year and in both postseason series. We're looking forward to a good time in Detroit, and we'll play as hard as we can."

Their opponent won't be any less of a challenge than those Red Sox were, though. St. Louis faces a Tigers team that amassed 95 wins and features a fearsome starting rotation. Scoring runs presented a challenge at times for the Redbirds in the National League Championship Series; they'll have to improve their offense if they want to win the franchise's first world title in 24 years.

"They can pitch," said second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who saw plenty of the Tigers when he played in Cleveland. "They've got guys who can throw fastballs, changeups, breaking balls. They've got good guys over there, man.

"But hey, we won the National League pennant, and we're going to go over there and do what we've been doing."

The Cardinals' rotation remains a bit of a mystery going forward. The Game 1 starter will be either rookie Anthony Reyes or Jason Marquis, who was left off the NLCS roster. Jeff Weaver, a former Tiger, is expected to start in the second game, with Carpenter in Game 3 and NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan for Game 4.

After overcoming the heavily favored Mets in the NLCS, the Cards believe that nothing is out of reach. Can they beat the AL champs? Ask them, and they'll tell you.

"Of course we can," rookie closer Adam Wainwright said as St. Louis celebrated the pennant. "But I'm not thinking about that right now -- I'm just enjoying this moment. We got a clean slate going into the playoffs. We came in here very confident. We won this series against one of the best teams in baseball."

These two teams have not only faced off in two previous World Series, they met in a three-game series at Comerica Park in June. The Cards were swept, right in the middle of an eight-game losing streak that marked the low point of the season.

The last time the clubs met in the World Series, Bob Gibson and Denny McLain were superstar hurlers. And the Cardinals had an infielder named Spiezio -- Ed Spiezio, the father of the current club's utilityman, Scott Spiezio.

"We've got the best opportunity in the world right in front of us," said Spiezio. "We've got the chance to compete for a World Series ring, and I'm following in my dad's footsteps."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.