Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Cardinals on the cusp of World Series

LEAVE IT TO WEAVER Jeff Weaver came up big and the young Cardinals bullpen held firm, with the result that St Louis need just one more win to seal the series


MLB PlayoffsA big swing by Albert Pujols and another playoff gem from a rejuvenated Jeff Weaver put the St Louis Cardinals on the cusp of the World Series.

Pujols' homer helped the Cardinals get to Tom Glavine at last, and Weaver shut down the New York Mets for a 4-2 victory on Tuesday night and a 3-2 lead in the NL championship series.

"He doesn't give in too much," Pujols said. "I'm just glad it went out of the park."

As a result, Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter has a chance to close it out in Game 6 at Shea Stadium, which would give St Louis its second pennant in three years and a date with the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Rookie right-hander John Maine is on the mound for the Mets, who hope to force a Game 7 at home.

The Cardinals got timely hits from Preston Wilson and Ronnie Belliard, and an insurance homer by pinch-hitter Chris Duncan. With the red-clad crowd of 46,496 twirling white towels, St Louis' young bullpen held on in the late innings after getting roughed up during New York's 12-5 victory in Game 4.

The second rainout of the series on Monday night gave Glavine and Weaver a chance to pitch on regular rest instead of only a three-day break.

Making his 35th postseason start, the most in Major League history, Glavine got only 12 outs. Weaver, on the other hand, earned an impressive playoff victory -- ?his second.

And now, for the second time in the series, the clubs will travel without a day off.

Pujols' homer put St Louis on the scoreboard and snapped Glavine's 22-inning scoreless streak that dated to his final regular-season start at Washington. Playing on a sore right hamstring, Pujols also went to his knees at first base for Shawn Green's one-hopper in the sixth.

The 40-year-old Glavine threw four-hit ball for seven sharp innings in Game 1, beating Weaver 2-0 on Carlos Beltran's two-run homer.

But Weaver got the best of this matchup.

Cast off by the Los Angeles Angels this summer to make roster room for his little brother, Jered, the St Louis right-hander kept Beltran and Carlos Delgado in check, yielding only two runs and six hits in six strong innings.

The Mets put runners at second and third with one out in the eighth, but Randy Flores retired Green on a shallow fly and rookie Adam Wainwright struck out Jose Valentin looking to preserve a two-run lead. Wainwright struck out Jose Reyes to end the game for his second save of the postseason.

In this postseason, Cardinals relievers have held opponents to 0-for-31 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position.

Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in three playoff starts. He tossed five innings of two-hit ball to beat San Diego 2-0 in Game 2 of the first round.

The game was delayed for a few minutes before the fourth while the grounds crew replaced first base, and Weaver walked his next batter, pitching carefully to Delgado. Green's one-out double kicked up chalk on the right-field line, and Valentin hit the next pitch just over a leaping Pujols at first base for a two-run double that put New York ahead.

Glavine, however, couldn't hold the lead.

Pujols pulled a 2-2 pitch barely over the left-field fence in the bottom half, his first home run since Game 1 against the Padres and his 12th overall in the postseason.

Scott Rolen walked with two outs, Jim Edmonds singled and Belliard bounced a tying single through the right side as Delgado broke for first base instead of toward the ball.

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