Cardinals 6, Dodgers 2
Monday, October 11th 2004, 6:25 am
News On 6
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The St. Louis Cardinals played like champions in their NL division series against Los Angeles. In defeat, the Dodgers displayed the kind of class and sportsmanship seldom seen in professional sports.
Jeff Suppan settled down after a shaky start to pitch seven strong innings, Albert Pujols hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the fourth, and the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 6-2 Sunday night to win the best-of-five series 3-1.
The Cardinals will play in their third NL championship series in five years, starting Wednesday night in St. Louis against Houston or Atlanta.
The Dodgers are going home for the winter, having failed in their third attempt to win a postseason series since they beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series.
When it was over, after Jason Isringhausen struck out Alex Cora for the final out, there was no immediate celebration by the Cardinals, and the Dodgers didn't walk back to their clubhouse.
Instead, while the Cardinals were quietly congratulating each other, the Dodgers went out on the field to greet them and shake their hands.
``That's the first time I've seen a team doing that to the other ballclub when they were the losing ballclub, and I think that was very special,'' Pujols said.
``Everybody just wanted to go out there and just wish them luck,'' Dodgers star Adrian Beltre said.
While common at the end of NHL playoff series, teams shaking hands on the field after a series is a rarity in baseball.
It did happen after Minnesota's 1-0, 10-inning win over Atlanta in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series _ one of the most exciting postseason matchups in baseball history.
``I think it was a professional show of class between two very classy organizations,'' Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. ``To play this series the way it was played with the intensity it was played, it said a lot.''
The Cardinals, a major league-best 105-57 during the regular season, are trying to become the first team with the top regular-season record to win the World Series since the 1998 New York Yankees.
``They're probably going to win the World Series,'' Dodgers closer Eric Gagne said. ``We got beat by the world champions.''
Pujols had two hits, a walk and four RBIs. He went 5-for-15 with two homers in the series.
``Albert is a tremendous player, he does amazing things out there,'' Suppan said. ``With him and everyone else, it's the best team I've been on.''
The teams were tied 2-2 entering the fourth. Pujols came to the plate with runners at first and second and two outs against reliever Wilson Alvarez.
With the struggling Scott Rolen on deck, Alvarez grooved a 3-1 fastball. Pujols connected, and as his towering fly ball sailed just over left fielder Jayson Werth into the lower left-field stands, the raucous crowd of 56,268 _ largest in Dodger Stadium history _ went silent.
Rolen, 0-for-12 in the series, grounded out following Pujols' homer.
The Dodgers had only two baserunners after that _ Cesar Izturis hit a one-out infield single off Julian Tavarez in the eighth and Milton Bradley walked against Isringhausen with two outs in the ninth.
``It's very difficult to win a baseball game with two runs and three hits,'' Tracy said. ``It's hard to do, especially when you're playing a team like that.''
The Cardinals, who led the NL with a .278 team batting average and 855 runs, outscored the Dodgers 22-12 in the series.
Tracy said he spoke with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa before the series concerning the postgame activities.
``Jim Tracy's a first-class guy,'' Rolen said. ``I have never seen that before, but it was a nice touch.''
Suppan, who went 10-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 14 road starts this season, allowed two hits and retired the final 14 batters he faced. He also singled twice in three at-bats _ a major surprise after he went 4-for-57 during the season.
``I was taking it pitch by pitch and just kept it very simple,'' Suppan said. ``I did the things I had done during the season, and the offense and defense we have here just made it a lot easier.''
Werth, the second batter Suppan faced, homered to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead. The Cardinals tied it in the second off Odalis Perez on a homer by Reggie Sanders one pitch after Jim Edmonds was thrown out stealing.
St. Louis got another run in the third, when Perez was chased after two walks and a one-out, RBI single by Edgar Renteria. Alvarez relieved and struck out Edmonds and Sanders.
Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly tied it 2-all in the fourth.
Perez gave up three hits and five walks in 2 1-3 innings, but only two runs as the Cardinals stranded five and had a runner thrown out stealing. He was unhappy about being lifted.
``It took away a lot of my confidence,'' Perez said. ``I don't agree with it. But I don't control those calls.''
Perez gave up six runs in 2 2-3 innings of Game 1.
Pujols hit an RBI single off Yhency Brazoban in the seventh to complete the scoring.
Notes: The Dodgers hit seven homers in the series _ their most in a playoff series since they hit eight in the 1978 NL championship series. All came with the bases empty. ... The Cardinals' bullpen, which had an NL-best 3.01 ERA during the regular season, gave up only one run in 11 2-3 innings to the Dodgers. ... Gagne, who had 45 saves in 47 chances during the regular season, worked three scoreless innings in the series _ two in the finale. But he never appeared in a save situation. ... Cardinals C Mike Matheny went hitless in four at-bats to snap his 12-game postseason hitting streak.