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10/22/06 1:09 AM ET
Rolen, Edmonds exorcise demons
Duo makes immediate impact, leaving '04 thoughts behind
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The missing links of the 2004 World Series showed up for the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.
The Cardinals know how important Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen can be in supporting offensive roles behind Albert Pujols. Game 1 gave hope that their previous World Series struggles can be erased.
Rolen had a double and a home run in four at-bats, and Edmonds was 2-for-4 with an RBI single in helping the Cardinals stun the Detroit Tigers with a 7-2 victory at Comerica Park. These were the two guys that were a combined 1-for-30 with one RBI when the Cardinals were swept by the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 World Series.
"It was better than '04, that's for sure," Rolen said in the clubhouse afterward. "Yeah, '04 was a tough World Series. I've been thinking about it a little bit, but experience is knowledge. [The] last time I played in the World Series, it was a failure for me individually and the team and, you know, you have to make adjustments."
Rolen was 0-for-15 with the RBI two years ago, but his first World Series hit came quickly. The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but Rolen struck back in the top of the second, smashing a 1-0 fastball over the left-field fence for a game-tying home run.
"That was a real big hit," shortstop David Eckstein said. "We know as a club if the opposition scores, we have to find a way to respond, even if it's just one run. We need to keep putting the pressure on the team and make sure they know we're not going away."
Edmonds was 1-for-15 in the 2004 World Series and struck out in his first two at-bats on Saturday. But he came back with an RBI single in the sixth and added another single in the eighth inning.
"The game is still a blur to me," Edmonds said. "I wasn't thinking about what happened in '04 at all. Not one bit. I wasn't even thinking about the Mets series. I was just focused on tonight. It was just important for us to get a win."
The sixth inning was instructive as the Series moves forward. The Tigers pitched to Pujols with first base open in the third inning and he hit a two-run home run.
They walked him in the sixth, and he went to third on pitcher Justin Verlander's wild pickoff throw. Edmonds then drove him home with a single through a drawn-in infield.
Rolen followed with a ground-rule double, putting runners on second and third, and they both scored on the strangest play of the night.
Juan Encarnacion hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Brandon Inge, who knocked the ball down and then threw wildly trying to get Edmonds at home. Edmonds scored easily, and Rolen was allowed to cross the plate as well when he crashed into Inge rounding third. Rolen hit the ground but was ultimately given the run by home-plate umpire Randy Marsh on fielder's interference.
"I saw the throw was wild, and I knew I could score on the play," Rolen said. "I was just looking to see if the ball was going to bounce back hard, and [Inge] was right in front of me. I got him pretty good, but I may have taken the brunt of it."
But the importance of the inning was that the Tigers pitched around Pujols -- and Edmonds and Rolen made them pay for it.
"Everybody in the lineup is big," Pujols said. "Those guys are in the middle of the lineup, they know how important they are, and they came through."
That hasn't always been the case, especially for Rolen. He was 9-for-29 with three home runs in the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros but was just 6-for-47 with one RBI in 14 playoff games since then, before Saturday night. He was 5-for-21 without an RBI against the Mets in the NLCS.
"The NLCS was mentally challenging," Rolen said. "It's nice to turn the page on a new series and a new environment and start all over. I felt, tonight, I had a little fight in me."
The Cardinals need that from the guys behind Pujols and remember what it was like without in 2004.