10/27/06 9:15 PM ET
Notes: MV3 back in effect
Heart of Cards lineup healthy and productive in Series
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Albert Pujols is batting only .167, but that doesn't tell the story of his contributions. He had a key two-run homer in Game 1, he's drawn four walks and scored three runs. And then there are his two partners in crime, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. For the first time arguably all year, both stars are healthy and clicking at once. It makes the Cards offense look much different.
"It's a lot different, because without those two in the lineup, it's all up to Albert when we get on base sometimes," said Chris Duncan, who typically bats second. "But it's nice when Albert doesn't drive the runs in to have guys behind him that can do it. It definitely helps out a lot."
Rolen is an early candidate for series MVP honors with a 7-for-16 start, five runs scored and four extra-base hits. Edmonds is 4-for-13 with a pair of doubles and four runs driven in.
"Going back to 2000, when Jim is swinging well, we're one different looking offensive club," said manager Tony La Russa. "And ever since Scott's been here, when Scott is swinging well, we're a potent team. When they're both swinging well, with the other guys, then we have a chance to break through against [any team], no matter what park, what conditions, whatever pitcher."
So starts: The Cardinals lineup on Friday featured So Taguchi in left field and Duncan in right, with Preston Wilson and Juan Encarnacion sitting against right-hander Justin Verlander. Additionally, Ronnie Belliard returned to the starting nine after sitting out in Game 4. According to the manager, the only particularly close call was Taguchi over Wilson in left.
"Both guys I think are playing inspired baseball," he said. "So I feel like either guy, or both if they played, have a chance to do something to help us win. So you're in a position of having to choose one of the two.
"I think the biggest thing for me is that in the end, Verlander's a real strikeout pitcher and So's got a better chance to put the ball in play. He may strike So out, but it was that close a call."
Plus five: La Russa keeps track of his team's success by games over .500 -- particularly in increments of five. The Cardinals finished the regular season exactly five games over. Coincidentally, they're also five games over in the postseason at 10-5.
"A little detail like that gets your attention sometime during the early morning hours when you're having trouble sleeping," La Russa said.
Nice going, kid: Yadier Molina's not likely ever to hit like Ivan Rodriguez, but his defense has drawn comparisons to the Tigers' 11-time Gold Glover. After getting another first-hand look at his fellow Puerto Rican backstop, Rodriguez remains impressed by the youngster.
"Yadier, I've known him since he was little," Rodriguez said. "I played with his brothers [Bengie and Jose, also Major League catchers]. He loves the game of baseball. Yesterday, he threw a baseball to second base that was unbelievable. Everybody looked at ourselves in the dugout and said, 'Wow.' He's got a tremendous future in this game. I'm very happy that he's doing a good job for the Cardinals, and he's going to be very good."
Molina, 24, is considered a legitimate candidate for his first Gold Glove this year.
This date in Cardinals history: Oct. 27 has not been a good date over the years for the Cardinals. It's the latest date a St. Louis season has ever ended prior to this season, and in neither case was it a pleasant experience. On Oct. 27, 1985, the Cards lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Royals, 11-0. On Oct. 27, 2004, they lost Game 4 of the World Series to the Red Sox, 4-0, closing out Boston's sweep.
Baby 'Birds: The Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League took 7-6 loss in extra innings against Phoenix on Thursday. Brendan Ryan went 1-for-6 and Nick Stavinoha was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. On the pitching side, Mike Parisi (two innings) and Dennis Dove (one inning) each allowed a run on one hit.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.