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playing to win

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back to reality: the cards face a difficult task this evening. roy oswalt is an apparently fearless hombre who won't back down before the (hopefully) reenergized cardinals, 50,000 loud and euphoric fans, and/or the astros' legacy of heartbreak. this will be his 3d start in busch stadium in the last three weeks; he won the first two, yielding only one run each time. it's oswalt's sixth career postseason start; his team has gone 5-0 in his starts heretofore.

Update [2005-10-19 16:25:24 by lboros]: ryan from the diaspora corrects the record --- astros are 4-1 in oswalt's five previous postseason starts. thank you ry vb.

oswalt mastered the cardinals in game 2 primarily with his 95+ mph fastball; struck out 6 in 7 ip and got 12 groundball outs vs just 3 flyballs. but he also yielded 2 doubles and a homer, and the 'stros took away at least three cardinal hits with stellar defense. he's a lot like the post-all-star chris carpenter -- a tough nut to crack, but crackable . . . . well, sorta crackable. the cardinals are probably gonna have to make 3 or 4 runs stand up to win this game.

the ol' Race to 4.

mark mulder pitched in two elimination games while with the athletics, beginning with (and thanks to retrosheet for the ensuing) game 5 of the 2001 alds vs the yankees. mulder had won game 1 of the series with 6 2/3 of one-run ball; came back on full rest in game 5 against r clemens and enjoyed a 2-0 lead after an inning and a half. but the yanks packaged three singles and an hbp in the bottom of the 2d to tie it up 2-2, and with one out in the bottom of the 3d oakland catcher ramon hernandez -- the same guy we just faced with san diego in the nlds -- sprained his wrist and had to leave the game. on the very next hitter, replacement catcher greg myers dropped strike three and allowed the batter (bernie williams) to reach 1st base safely. a hit and a walk ensued, but mulder still would've pitched out of it if not for a second error, this one by eric chavez at 3d base. the run scored without benefit of a hit -- two errors, an hbp, and a walk -- and it put new york ahead for good.

in the 4th mulder yielded a leadoff single to chuck knoblach but picked him off . . . . except jason giambi's relay to 2d went wide and knoblach was safe. a bunt and a sac fly brought him home; mulder yielded a two-out walk to bernie williams but picked him off, too, and this time giambi's relay was true and the inning ended.

art howe lifted mulder the next inning after a one-out single; his final line read 4.1 innings, 4 runs (2 earned), 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 hbp -- 11 baserunners all told. the athletics lost the game, 5-3.

in 2002 mulder again pitched game 5, this time vs the minnesota twins. after a scoreless 1st he got into a 2d-3d, nobody out jam in the 2d inning and damn near pitched out of it; but with the sacks full, two out, and the game still scoreless denny hocking got a clutch single to drive in a run. in the third he yielded a double and a single, making the score 2-0 twins. oakland got one run back in the 3d, and there the matter stood until the 9th inning, when minnesota piled on 3 fateful runs against the oakland bullpen. i say "fateful" because the a's scored 3 runs of their own in the bottom half, which would have clinched the series if not for the twins' insurance tallies. final score: twins 5, a's 4. mulder's line: 7 innings, 9 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts.

i said after game 2: "i'm not a big believer in 'momentum'; you take each game as it comes, play it off and move on." i stand by that, with one condition. i think the emotions of monday night will remain "present" in this game for about an inning. there will be thunderous standing ovations when the cardinals take the field and no doubt one apiece for the three ne'er-say-diers when they come up in the bottom of the 1st. (over-under on the standing O for albert: 60 seconds.) but that's basically all we're talking about -- hollerin' and whistlin' and clappin'. monday night's three-run bomb doesn't count in this game; it's 0-0 again, and there's considerable peril afoot.

but we now know -- and many of us had our doubts after sunday -- that this team isn't playing scared-to-lose. they're playing to win.