SERIES: NL Division Series; Cardinals lead 1-0.
Jeff Weaver’s last postseason experience didn’t go very well. The Los Angeles Dodgers will need a dramatically better effort from him if they hope to avoid an 0-2 hole in their best-of-five NL division series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Weaver looks to cool down the Cardinals’ red-hot bats as the teams meet in Game 2 at Busch Stadium.
Weaver will try to do what the Dodgers left-hander Odalis Perez couldn’t in Game 1—hold down the NL’s most powerful offense. The Cardinals hit five home runs, three off Perez, and cruised to an 8-3 victory in Tuesday’s opener.
Larry Walker homered twice, and Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Mike Matheny also went deep to help the Cardinals tie the record for postseason homers set by the 1928 New York Yankees (World Series) and matched by the 1984 Chicago Cubs (NLCS) and 1989 Oakland Athletics (World Series).
Perez lasted only 2 2-3 innings against one of the majors’ deepest lineups, getting chased in a five-run third.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Perez said. “Walker hit the pitch I wanted, Pujols hit a changeup, the pitch I wanted to make. (Edgar) Renteria (who hit a two-run double) was a fastball in, the pitch I wanted to throw.”
Weaver could be subjected to similar treatment Thursday. While the right-hander had a decent season for the Dodgers after being traded to Los Angeles from the Yankees during the offseason, he didn’t exactly thrive in last year’s playoffs.
In the 12th inning of Game 4 of the World Series against Florida, Weaver allowed the winning homer to Alex Gonzalez in a 4-3 Marlins victory. The dramatic tied the series, and New York went on to lose in six games.
Weaver admitted to struggling in big spots with the Yankees, but the Dodgers probably need a solid outing from him to avoid being pushed to the brink of elimination. While Los Angeles set a franchise record with 53 come-from-behind victories this season, it doesn’t have the lineup to outhit St. Louis, and might not get an opportunity to pull off any more comebacks if Weaver can’t keep the game close.
In addition, Woody Williams set the tone for what some see as a shaky Cardinals rotation with six strong innings Tuesday.
“Two runs is nice, but getting five runs is just unbelievable,” Williams said of his team’s third inning. “Especially in a game of this magnitude.”
Right-hander Jason Marquis, a 15-game winner, will try to match Williams’ solid performance Thursday. Marquis has pitched well in his career against the Dodgers, going 1-1 with a 2.88 ERA in five career games, including four starts.
“Our momentum can be recreated,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “I just really feel like if we get adequate starting pitching, we have a good chance to hang in the series for quite a while and possibly win it.”
Strong performances from Weaver and the other Dodgers starters may be the only way Tracy’s club will have a chance against the determined Cardinals, who easily shook off their struggles during the final week of the regular season.
“I don’t know about that so-called switch that was turned off,” Matheny said. “We respect the game way too much to think that we have enough ability to turn a switch off and then be able to play at our peak ability by turning it back on.”
The series shifts to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 on Saturday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Dodgers - NL West champion. Cardinals - NL Central champion.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Dodgers - SS Cesar Izturis (.288, 4 HRs, 62 RBIs, 25 SBs), LF Jayson Werth (.262, 16, 47), CF Steve Finley (.271, 36, 94), 3B Adrian Beltre (.334, 48, 121, 104 runs, 200 hits), 1B Shawn Green (.266, 28, 86), RF Milton Bradley (.267, 19, 67, 15 SBs), 2B Alex Cora (.264, 10, 47) C Brent Mayne (.221, 0, 15). Cardinals - 2B Tony Womack (.307, 5, 38, 26 SBs), RF Walker (.298, 17, 47 in 258 at-bats with Colorado and St. Louis), 1B Pujols (.331, 46, 123, 51 2Bs, 133 runs), 3B Scott Rolen (.314, 34, 124), CF Edmonds (.301, 42, 111, 38 2Bs), 2B Renteria (.287, 10, 72, 17 SBs), LF Reggie Sanders (.260, 22, 67, 21 SBs), C Matheny (.247, 5, 50).
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Weaver (13-13, 4.01 ERA). Weaver went 0-1 with a 7.38 ERA in three postseason relief appearances for the Yankees in 2002 and ’03. He struggled this September, going 1-3 with a 6.03 ERA in six starts, after a 4-0 August. Weaver faced the Cardinals twice last month, and came away without a decision as the Dodgers went 1-1 in those games. He went six innings and gave up five runs in a 6-5 Los Angeles loss Sept. 5, and pitched seven innings and allowed four runs as the Dodgers won 6-5 on Sept. 11. Weaver is 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA in five career starts against St. Louis.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Marquis (15-7, ERA). The 26-year-old right-hander has made two playoff appearances, pitching two scoreless relief innings for Atlanta in the 2001 NLCS against Arizona. He dropped three of his last four starts this season, posting a 4.77 ERA during that span. Marquis beat the Dodgers 5-1 at Busch Stadium on Sept. 4, pitching seven scoreless innings and allowing eight hits and no walks with nine strikeouts. In his next start, also against Los Angeles on Sept. 10, he gave up five runs in six innings of a 7-6 loss at Dodger Stadium, though he didn’t get a decision.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Dodgers - Los Angeles hasn’t won a postseason game since beating Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series. … 3B Beltre is 4-for-12 with a homer against RHP Marquis. … RF Bradley is hitless in six career at-bats against Marquis. Cardinals - Tuesday’s win ended St. Louis’ only four-game losing streak of the year. … Walker is the third Cardinals player to homer twice in a postseason game. Ron Gant did it in the 1996 NLCS against Atlanta and Willie McGee did it the 1982 World Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. … SS Renteria was 3-for-21 in his last six games before his two-run double in the third inning Tuesday broke open the game.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Dodgers - 44-37 on the road in regular season, 0-1 in playoffs. Cardinals - 53-28 at home in regular season, 1-0 in playoffs.