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too much oswalt; too little mulder. at the 1st sign of trouble, our boy disappeared. he breezed through the first two innings on 20 pitches; ball never left the infield. then ausmus opened the 3rd with a clean single, and everett got an infield hit; a bunt moved the runners into scoring position . . . . and then of a sudden mulder couldn't throw a strike below the crotch. he wild-pitched home a run, then gave up three consecutive smashes -- a single to biggio, a line drive that walker caught racing in, and a one-hop rocket up the middle the eckstein snared diving. in the 4th he fell behind 3-1 to ensberg and got him on a fly ball; then a home run; then another fly ball; another hit; another flyout.

two flyouts to open the 5th inning, followed by another single, and mulder's night was through. his 1st time through the order, he allowed only one ball to leave the infield; but once placed in peril he couldn't keep the ball down, and he didn't get a single groundball out the rest of the night. well ok, one -- the diving stop by eckstein.

mark's performance fell considerably outside his thin margin for error; nothing less than a shutout would've won the game. the cardinals managed just 7 baserunners and got only two guys into scoring position all night; for the series they hit .209 with 9 extra-base hits. before game 1 i wrote:

good pitching usually beats good hitting; there's no getting around it. and the astros have very, very good pitching. their rotation starters are better than the cardinals', and their bullpen is significantly better.

so the cardinals are hosed then? well, yeah if the astros' pitchers take control of the series. preventing that is the cardinals' task, and it won't be easy.

the chore proved beyond their abilities, particularly w respect to roy oswalt. but the game that cost st louis the series was the 4th -- the gimme game, the cards' lone respite from cy-young-type pitching. when their bats failed to assert in that game, the series was basically over.

the blame-and-recrimination season now officially opens; i'll be warming to that material in the coming days and weeks, but feel free to jump in now if you've got a gripe that can't wait. silver-lining talk is also welcome.

i've had a blast this season interacting with all the readers/writers who've frequented this site. drop by during the Series and throughout the winter; lot of roster decisions to make for 2006, so it should be an active and interesting off-season.

and congrats to the astros, who earned their pennant and deserve their reward. i won't be rooting for them in the Series -- nothing against their team or players, but i've never liked the wild-card concept and like even less the idea of an 89-win team as world champs. we're past due for a 1st-place team to win it all.

wish it had been the cardinals.