Cardinals Go Beast Mode in NLCS Game 5

The St. Louis Cardinals return to Milwaukee up three games to two after a big win Friday night in the National League Championship Series Game 5.



Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had been pilloried by some observers for, they thought, leaving left-hander Jaime Garcia on the mound too long in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. By the time La Russa got Garcia out of the game, the Milwaukee Brewers were on their way to a six-run fifth inning and a 9-6 victory.

Friday night in Game 5 of the NLCS, Garcia had a 4-0 lead entering the fifth and allowed a run on three singles. He had two out, but dangerous Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun was coming to the plate.

Braun, who homered off Garcia early in Game 1, doubled in that fateful fifth Sunday. But this time La Russa went to veteran right-hander Octavio Dotel, who had struck out Braun seven times in nine career meetings. Dotel fanned Braun this time, too, and the Cardinals went on to a 7-1 win that gave them a 3-2 lead in games in the series, which resumes in Milwaukee on Sunday.

La Russa said, "Well, there (was) a lot of conversation about Game 1 and how quickly they put runs on the board. We just notice. I don't know. I'm not sure exactly what it is. Maybe it's a long season for a young guy, but when he starts to elevate the ball and get it in the middle (of the plate), he does recover at times. But as he gets some innings in him, it's harder."

Dotel, who received credit for the win, said he was surprised to come into the game so soon. "I really wasn't thinking that I was going to be in the game in that situation," said Dotel, "because Jaime was throwing a really good game. He's got, like, 60-something (68) pitches. So I never thought I'm going to be in that game."

But, Dotel said, "They gave me enough time to warm up and get ready for Braun. I guess I'm just lucky against him. I would love to be the same lucky when the series is over."




LF Matt Holliday, normally the cleanup hitter for the Cardinals, will hit fifth for the duration of postseason play, manager Tony La Russa said. Holliday had two bouts with an inflamed tendon in his right palm late in the season and La Russa said, "He came into this pressure-filled time and he did not have the right prep. Putting him in the 4 spot, which I've done, behind Albert (Pujols) is unfair. Unfair to him, unfair to us. So he's going to hit fifth." Lance Berkman hit fourth on Friday. And Holliday, who had two hits—a homer and a double—in Game 4, had three more hits, including a two-run double in Game 5. "I feel pretty healthy," said Holliday.

SS Rafael Furcal, one of the team's late season catalysts, can be a free agent at the end of the postseason but says he wants to stay. "Who wouldn't want to play for one of the best managers in baseball?" asked Furcal.

The Cardinals, before Friday's game, had been nothing for their last 15 with men in scoring position, and hitting coach Mark McGwire had suggested that too many hitters were trying to be the hero. La Russa concurred. "I think Mark's right because that's human nature," La Russa said. "You want to be the guy that comes through and you want to do more against pitchers that will take advantage of that." The Cardinals weren't great with runners in scoring position Friday, but they were 4-for-15.

3B David Freese, the Cardinals' best hitter for the two postseason series, extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the fourth. He is batting .424 (14 for 33) with four doubles, three homers and 11 RBI during the streak.

LHP Jaime Garcia, yanked after 4 2/3 innings, became the fifth Cardinals starter in five games in the series not to last past the fifth inning. Cardinals starters have posted a 6.04 earned run average, although Garcia gave up just one run on Friday.

BY THE NUMBERS: 22 - Hitless at-bats for Cardinals hitters with men in scoring position in the series until C Yadier Molina doubled home a run in the second inning of Game 5.


QUOTE TO NOTE: "Well, I don't want to go back to Milwaukee at all. I would have liked to have won (Thursday). But, yeah, it was a very important game for us, a must-win." - LF Matt Holliday, after the Cardinals' 7-1 win in Game 5 of the NLCS.





2B/OF Skip Schumaker (right oblique) was injured in Oct. 7's NLDS Game 5. He was left off the NLCS roster.

RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright was getting closer to throwing a full-strength bullpen session in September, but he will not be allowed to throw his signature curveball until next year.



Sun., October 16: at BREWERS: Edwin Jackson vs. Shawn Marcum, 3:05 P.M. CDT (or 7:05 PM if ALCS is over) (TBS, ESPN Radio, KMOX).


<a href='' target='_new' title='Cardinals take 3-2 lead in Game 5'>Video: Cardinals take 3-2 lead in Game 5</a>
Marc Rzepczynski, Jaime Garcia and Yadier Molina sound off on winning Game 5 on Friday.

<a href='' target='_new' title='Cards after victory'>Video: Cards after victory</a>
Octavio Dotel, Matt Holliday and manager Tony La Russa speak with the media after winning Game 5.

Tony La Russa's full post-game comments (from MLB and ASAP Sports)

Q. Can you talk about taking advantage of some of the errors they had, the second chances they gave you guys?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, the errors are a part of the game, and I know the shortstops put on a clinic in this series and it just shows you, they are not routine balls, the ball is jumping all over the place. And competition that's this close, if you can take advantage of one of those or two of those, it could be the difference.

Q. Going to Dotel there, was that as much Dotel against Braun as it was Garcia struggling a little bit at that point?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, there's a lot of conversation about Game 1 and how quickly they put some runs on the board. We just notice, I don't know, I'm not sure exactly what it is, maybe it's just a long season for a young guy, but when he starts to elevate the ball and get it in the middle, he does recover at times, but as he gets some innings in him, it's harder. Dotel, one of the things he has done really good is the inherited runners. He comes in in the middle of an inning and he has been outstanding doing exactly that.

Q. Back to taking advantage of their mistakes, that's something you've done really well the last six or seven weeks; when a team opens the door, you take advantage of it.

TONY LA RUSSA: Like I said, the competition is so close that a lot of times what makes the difference is if we make a mistake, which we have, and they have beaten us. That's part of the game. It's not always just heroics.

Q. It was a group effort tonight offensively.

TONY LA RUSSA: Yeah, I thought Punto had a solid game at the bat, too. We beat a guy that's a top notch pitcher. So it was a real good effort. Jaime gave us a lot of outs and then the bullpen was outstanding, and our hitters just competed.

Q. Not a big play in the grand scheme of things, but the Carlos Gomez pickoff in the second, Albert has such a great angle on that throw. Is that a set play that you run on the pickoff?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, you are kind of guessing and you don't want to keep stall the game. That was the third in a row. They have an aggressive style, which is the same style we have. You want to try to push; there's two outs, and a lot of times you would rather make the out doing something aggressive, and you just start fresh with a guy that's on deck. But the guy, he got a real good jump, he's very fast and Albert's ability to jump out, take the throw and give him an opening, an angle to make the throw, I mean, that's Albert's Gold Glove type abilities.

Q. You often see teams shift the infield around against a left hand batter, but I'm not sure I've seen it very much against right handers like I do against Albert, and I know they have done it a lot to you. Have you seen it very much against right handers, and do you see -- doesn't really seem to bother Albert at all. Can you tell anything with that?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, a lot of times, when you see that, it gives you an idea how he's going to get pitched. If they make their pitches, it's hard to hit the ball over the right side of the field, although Albert probably has, if he really tried, because he's a magician, but just like sometimes you pitch a left hander away and you play everybody, shade it to the left side. I mean, it gives you an indication of how they are going to get pitched, but it doesn't mean it's any easier to hit.

Q. Is that chance that he gets Fielder there, the second time he's got him, can you talk about he's developed into that role and performed well?

TONY LA RUSSA: Well, he's exciting because you can leave him in there and let him face right handers, too. He's got a lot of live stuff. His fastball has got life. He's got a breaking ball, got a changeup, so he presents a problem. If you look, there's not a big difference with Fielder. He's hitting left handers like he hits right handers. But he has not seen them much and if he makes a pitch, it's tough. Another 10 times, 15 times that Fielder sees him, then he'll have a better shot.

Matt Holliday and Octavio Dotel's post-game comments

Q. Octavio, what is your thinking when you come into a game in the situation that you came into tonight?

OCTAVIO DOTEL: Well, I wasn't really thinking that I was going to be in the game in that situation, because Jaime was throwing a really good game and the way he was throwing, and the way he -- we always check the count pitching, he got like 60 something pitches. So I never thought I'm going to be in that game. But then when he got to Ryan Braun and two out and Braun coming up, it was kind of quick and that's when I started to realize that the game can be changing against Braun and lefty against righty. So I just put it in my mind at that moment and they gave me enough time to warm up and get ready for Braun.

Q. You've had a lot of success against him, I think he's 2 for 10 now and you have eight strikeouts against him. Why do you have so much success and can you take me through that at bat, what you were trying to accomplish?

OCTAVIO DOTEL: Just lucky against him, that's what I can say. I try to make my pitches every time I see him, and every time I face him, I just want to make my pitches. I guess I'm lucky against him, and I would love to be the same lucky when the series is over.

Q. When you got that last strikeout, you came off the mound, what did you say?

OCTAVIO DOTEL: I mean, you know, I'm very excited because that's a great out, and it's a great guy that I just get him out. I'm really pumped up because, you know, I just got this guy out with two out and two men on base. You know, it's easy for him to hit a home run, if he do, it's going to be a tie game. That's why I was so excited myself, like I got him home; I got this guy out.

Q. Matt, batting fifth tonight in the order, do you feel like you're picking the ball up pretty well since your hand injury and all that?

MATT HOLLIDAY: Yeah, I feel pretty healthy, and saw the ball pretty well tonight.

Q. When you were growing up, watching playoffs on TV or anything, do you remember any particular time where you saw that great pitcher versus great hitter matchup, and did you ever imagine that, envision yourself being in a situation like that?

OCTAVIO DOTEL: Well, I did, I mean, but I was already in the Big Leagues. I saw one great moment, you know, when Pedro (Martinez) was facing the Yankees, I think it was in 2008, I think it was, and he gave it up that game and he kind of lost. I was putting myself like, well, I don't want to be in Pedro's situation at that moment because it's a tough situation.

Q. The Brewers seemed to over shift their infield a bit against several guys. When you see it going on against Pujols, do you just kind of scratch your head and go, you know, what's the point?

MATT HOLLIDAY: Well, I'm sure they have stats. I'm sure they have spreadsheets. Everybody's got spread charts and all those things. They probably play the percentages. He probably hits a lot of balls up the middle. You know, if he hits a lot of balls up the middle as opposed to in the second base hole, they will take their chances. I'm sure they have their reasons. It's a lot of teams, they move around Lance because he doesn't hit a lot of groundballs to the left side. They are just playing percentages.

Q. What did you see out of Greinke on the hill tonight?

MATT HOLLIDAY: He has a good running fastball and a good slider. He's tough. He's a good pitcher. We battled him, and you know, we got a couple breaks with some errors, you know, found some ways to put some runs on him and get a lead and hold onto it.

Q. Both of you guys, I can't imagine that you wanted to go back to Milwaukee down 3 2; right? So how important was this victory?

MATT HOLLIDAY: Well, I don't want to go back to Milwaukee at all. I would have liked to have won yesterday. But yeah, it was very important to me. It was a very important game for us, a must win, I felt like a must win going back to Milwaukee. We need to win on Sunday.

OCTAVIO DOTEL: Same thing. Like he said, we don't want to go back there. They are pretty good over there in their house. Now that we have the lead, we are looking forward just to keep doing what we have been doing lately and give our hitters the opportunity to do what they have been doing lately. I mean, it's hard to go over there, but I mean, we are going over there and we just are looking forward to winning a game. We have two chances pretty much, so we are just looking forward to try to get the first moment and the first time and try to have the best luck against them.

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