Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Cardinals show Mets what playoff baseball is all about

By Emily Shih  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the midst of the Mets' sixth-inning hit parade against the Cardinals bullpen in Game 4, something happened on the field that had nothing to do with offense, little to do with the game, and -- still, somehow -- everything to do with the playoffs.

It happened against a back wall -- the wall behind center field at the brand-new Busch Stadium, where nearly 50,000 fans were covering their eyes and holding their heads as the Mets just kept on coming. They had already scored six runs in the inning and held an 11-3 lead. Even the truest of the "best fans in baseball" was having a hard time believing that the game wasn't over. And for all practical purposes, it was.

Only somebody forgot to tell the Cardinals.

They certainly forgot to tell Jim Edmonds, the 36-year-old center fielder who chased a Jose Reyes fly ball into the lightly-padded cement wall behind him. This, after Edmonds spent the summer in and out of the lineup thanks to the lingering after-effects of a concussion. This, with his injured foot and an eight-run deficit.

But this, my friends, is the playoffs.

In the bottom of that inning, Jimmy also blasted a solo home run -- insignificant, perhaps, to the overall score, but like the other two solo homers in the game (by shortstop David Eckstein and catcher Yadier Molina), important in bigger and less obvious ways. Others might only remember the Mets' offensive barrage or the Cardinals' bullpen melting down, but in a series so evenly matched, it is really important to note one thing: that in the middle of a blowout, one lineup kept playing.

They kept crashing into walls to make catches that didn't need to be caught. They kept hitting home runs that didn't really need to be hit. In short, they kept doing their job, and for a playoff team, doing your job is not just playing baseball. It is playing baseball with a passion, as if it were the only thing you could possibly do.

So they did.

What has gotten lost in the noise of this series is that Game 5 could possibly have been Jim Edmonds' last home game as a Cardinal. It is likely that the club will not pick up his option next season, and to say that he will be missed -- well, that is like saying that Albert Pujols is a pretty good player. An understatement for the ages.

But whether that game happened on Tuesday night or will happen at a later, yet-to-be-determined date does not really matter. What matters is that an eight-time Gold Glove winner went smashing into a concrete wall to save a run and reminded everyone of exactly how you play baseball in October.

With everything you've got.

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