NLCS Game Three – Sat. 10/14 – Cards 5-0

The St. Louis Cardinals seized the NLCS lead two games to one by skunking the New York Mets 5-0 at Busch Stadium on Saturday night. Jeff Suppan starred with the arm and the bat, with a solo home run. For the second consecutive night, Scott Spiezio stroked a two-run triple.

Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Suppan was simply masterful. He tossed eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits and one walk. He struck out four. The Cardinals defense behind him was also stellar.

The offense was again sparked by Scott Spiezio, who again stroked a two-run triple. A most unlikely source, Suppan, added a solo home run. Albert Pujols had two hits and Preston Wilson scored twice.

One year ago today
On October 14, 2005, the Astros and the Cardinals were traveling from St. Louis to Houston between Games Two and Three of the NLCS. At that point, the Astros had earned a split on the road and eventually won the Series.

The match-up
Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12; 0-1, 6.23) vs. Steve Trachsel (15-8, 4.97; 0-0, 5.40).

The line-up
Eckstein, Wilson (RF), Pujols, Edmonds, Spiezio (LF), Rolen, Belliard, Molina and Suppan.
Out: Chris Duncan, Juan Encarnacion
In: Preston Wilson, Scott Rolen
La Russa kept Scott Spiezio's hot bat in the lineup by putting him in left. Scott Rolen returns sore shoulder or not.

On to the game…

Mets first – RISP
With two down, Carlos Beltran singled to right on an 0-2 pitch. He stole second base on a 2-2 ball to Carlos Delgado, but the full-count offering was a comebacker to Suppan.

Cards first – Spee-z-o
Eckstein reached via a single but was picked off first base. La Russa came out to argue about Trachsel balking. Wilson walked. Pujols singled through the first-second base hole. Surprisingly, Wilson didn't try to take third base. Edmonds popped out. Spiezio shot a ball to right that just fell in front of a diving Shawn Green. Two runs scored as Spiezio took third base with another two-run triple. Rolen walked. Belliard got a second life as a foul ball dropped between David Wright and Endy Chavez in short left. Belliard worked a walk to load the bases. Molina took a called strike three for the third out. Cards 2-0.

Mets second – Super
Jose Valentin fanned to end a 1-2-3 inning for Suppan.

Cards second – Putting the hammer down
Leading off, Suppan homered as the ball bounced off the top of the padded wall and landed in the left field bullpen. Chavez leapt, but just missed the catch. Eckstein walked. Wilson shot a ball off the mound and Trachsel's leg. The ricochet single went into left. The pitcher was checked out but stayed in the game. Runners on the corners for Pujols with no out. He was walked. That ended the game for Trachsel. Former Cardinal Darren Oliver took over on the mound. His second offering was a wild pitch that enabled Eckstein to score. Wilson came home as Edmonds grounded out to first base. Spiezio made the second out on a check swing grounder to second base. Rolen was retired for the third out. Cards 5-0.

Mets third – Supp strikeout
With two out, Reyes dropped a triple into the right center gap as Edmonds tried to swipe at the ball barehanded, but it got past him and rolled to the ball. Suppan came up with the clutch strikeout of Paul Lo Duca.

Cards third – RISP stranded
After Belliard singled, Molina flied out to the wall in left. Suppan executed a perfect sac bunt. But, Eckstein popped out to end the inning.

Mets fourth – Supp sailing
A perfect inning for the Cards hurler.

Cards fourth – Another LOB
Pujols hit a slow roller into right for a one-out single. Edmonds struck out looking as the lefty Oliver isn't the first to have his way with Jim this season.

Mets fifth – Preston's gun
With one out, Valentin hit a ball to right center. Wilson made a great scoop and throw to Eckstein, who tagged out Valentin's foot as he slid into second base. Assist Wilson!

Cards fifth – More runners
Good to see Rolen lead off with a single to center. Belliard took a free pass. Oliver may be running out of gas. Molina lined out to Reyes. Suppan bunted the runners up again, but that was it.

Mets sixth – Another Rolen gem
Reyes lined out as Wilson hauled the ball in on the track. Rolen made a barehanded pickup and throw for the third out, Lo Duca. Suppan's pitch count is 69.

Cards sixth – Nada
For once, the Cards went down in order.

Mets seventh – Just enough
Eckstein made a nice throw from the second base side to throw out Beltran. Rolen backhanded and threw out his opposite number, Wright, for the third out.

Cards seventh – Quiet
Down in order again. Oliver has done a fine job. Glad he didn't get the start.

Mets eighth – Leadoff walk harmless
Shawn Green drew the first Mets walk of the night. Randy Flores and Josh Kinney began to throw quickly in the pen. Eckstein made a diving stop on a hard-hit ball by Chavez and got the lead runner. Michael Tucker hit for Oliver and hit a one-hopper to Pujols, who pumped his first in elation.

Cards eighth – Three more outs
Chris Duncan hit for Suppan and flied out to center. Kinney prepared to come in.

Mets ninth – Done
Kinney finished off Suppan's gem in style with three fly balls. Edmonds hauled down the final ball off Beltran in the left center gap.

In conclusion
Jeff Suppan was simply too much for the Mets and Scott Spiezio had a huge two-run triple for the second consecutive game. By the way, if it goes that long, Suppan would be the Cards' Game Seven pitcher.

Upcoming action (times CDT) – probable pitchers
NLCS Schedule (All games on FOX TV, times Central)

Sun., Oct. 15, 6:30 p.m.	Busch Stadium (Perez vs. Reyes)
Mon., Oct. 16, 7:00 p.m.	Busch Stadium (Glavine vs. Weaver)
Wed., Oct. 18, 7:00 p.m.#	Shea Stadium (Trachsel vs. Carpenter)
Thu., Oct. 19, 7:00 p.m.#	Shea Stadium (Suppan vs. Maine)
# If necessary

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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