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Baseball: NL playoffs

Proceed as planned

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published October 15, 2004

ST. LOUIS - Were the Astros hoping Game 2 would be rained out? Nobody said that, but it isn't hard to figure out how a postponement could have changed the dynamic of the series.

Had the game been rescheduled for today, it would have allowed Houston to pitch aces Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt in Games 2 and 3 instead of 3 and 4 and come back with them, if necessary, in Games 6 and 7.

Playing five games against the Braves in the division series forced manager Phil Garner to rest the two righties, a combined 38-14 in the regular season, the first two games. Pete Munro, who hadn't pitched since Oct. 1, started Thursday.

Before the game Garner said of a possible rotation shakeup, "I'll deal with that if we get a rainout."

But rightfielder Lance Berkman said changing pitchers would have been a natural.

"It'd be great to get our big horses on the mound," he said. "It's saying nothing bad about Pete Munro, but Roger has pitched great down the stretch and so has Roy. So to get them on the mound is where you want to be."

Cardinals centerfielder Jim Edmonds said he doesn't care when Clemens and Oswalt pitch.

"We have to face them one way or another," he said. "But, obviously, (a rotation switch) would change things."

TURF TROUBLE: Neither Berkman nor Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell looked forward to playing while dodging rain drops that fell throughout the day in varying intensities.

The grounds crew dumped large amounts of water from the infield tarp onto the outfield and contended with a steady rain as the crew conditioned the field.

"It's the same for both teams," Bagwell said. "But nobody wants a sloppy game in a championship series."

"The game should be decided by players on the field," Berkman said. "There should be as few outside influences as possible, and weather falls into that category."

FAIR OR FOUL? Bagwell was caught in a tough spot in Wednesday's loss. He could have allowed Roger Cedeno's sixth-inning dribbler to roll and hope it scooched foul. But Bagwell decided to get a sure out, which allowed a run to score. The run broke a 4-4 tie and began a six-run rally that was key to St. Louis' 10-7 victory.

"We're just trying to get out of that inning, but they kept on getting hits," Bagwell said.

With runners on second and third and one out, Bagwell watched Cedeno's excruciatingly slow roller straddle the foul line. The ball appeared to be headed foul, but Bagwell picked it up and tagged Cedeno while Edgar Renteria scored from third.

Bagwell said he had no choice.

"At the time I didn't know it was going to go foul," he said. "If I let the ball go and it hits first base, I'm looking pretty stupid for letting it go by. It's okay if we give up one run. It's a matter of not giving up any more than that. I'm not going to make some acrobatic play to get Renteria out at the plate."

IT'S A HOCKEY THING: First it was handshakes after the Cardinals-Dodgers division series, and now this. Some Astros are growing playoff beards.

"It's more of a team solidarity type of thing," Berkman said. "All the guys here look like NHL players."

ODDS AND ENDS: Leftfield umpire Ed Rapuano left the game in the second inning because of dizziness. ... Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Game 2 starter Matt Morris would have pitched today had the game been postponed. ... Astros second baseman Jeff Kent played despite a bruised ankle that swelled after he fouled a pitch off it in Game 1.

[Last modified October 15, 2004, 01:32:13]


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