Series keys

Baseball Playoff

October 13, 2004|By Juan C. Rodriguez | Juan C. Rodriguez,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

No rest for the weary: For the Cardinals to face Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt more than once each, the series would have to go seven games and both would have to pitch on three days' rest for the second time this postseason. Clemens and Oswalt each tossed five innings and allowed two runs against the Braves on short rest, but Clemens threw 24 fewer pitches than Oswalt (111).

Familiar fellows: After facing each other 18 times during the regular season, the Cardinals and Astros know just about everything there is to know about each other. If the adage about familiarity benefiting hitters more than pitchers holds true, the Cardinals should beware. Astros hitters logged 14 more RBIs and slugged 28 points higher in the head-to-head meetings.

Closing time: In his second full major-league season, Brad Lidge took over stopper duties when the Astros traded Octavio Dotel to the Athletics in the Carlos Beltran deal. After converting 13 of his last 14 save chances during the regular season, Lidge went 1-for-2 against the Braves. He converted all three chances vs. the Cardinals, a team he held scoreless on one hit through 9 2/3 innings over eight games.

Prediction: Cardinals in six.

Matchup

Records: Astros 92-70, NL wild card; Cardinals 105-57, NL Central champions.

Season series: Astros won 10-8.

Managers: Phil Garner is 48-26 (.649) in one year with the Astros, 3-2 in the postseason; Tony La Russa is 794-663 (.545) in nine years with the Cardinals, 19-16 in the postseason.

On the spot: Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt. Going the distance against the Braves in the division series means the Astros have to pitch their top two starters in Games 3 and 4. By then, the Astros could be looking at a 2-0 deficit and in need of Clemens and Oswalt pitching them to victories at Minute Maid Park, where they were a combined 23-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 248 strikeouts in 252 1/3 innings.

Series surprise: Astros 2B Jeff Kent hit .366 (26-for-71) with 14 runs, three homers, 14 RBIs and a 1.016 on-base plus slugging percentage in 18 games against Cardinals pitching.

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