Differing opinions on must-win

Updated: October 16, 2004, 10:11 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Jeff Suppan was perfect on the road this year -- everywhere but Houston.

The St. Louis starter was the losing pitcher in Game 3 of the NL championship series Saturday, making him 0-2 at Minute Maid Park. He's 11-0 otherwise in road starts this season, counting a victory in Los Angeles in the clinching game of the division series.

Suppan was staked to a 1-0 lead, but gave up three runs in the bottom of the first inning. He didn't allow another run, but the Cardinals scored only one more.

"He was outstanding after that," manager Tony La Russa said. "He gave us a terrific chance to win."

Suppan gave up three runs and five hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked two.

"I went out there today to attack them pitch by pitch," Suppan said. "In the first inning, for whatever reason, I was unable to get some outs and they scored three runs. From then on, I was able to get it done."

Maybe he remembered where he was.

Suppan won his first 10 decisions on the road before losing to the Astros in his final start. He opened the postseason with a victory in Los Angeles, only to come back to Houston and lose again.

"They're a good team anywhere you play them," he said. "They have a good lineup and are able to do a lot of things."

Suppan will be available to pitch again this series, perhaps as the starter in Game 6 or 7, if the series goes that long.

And both games would be in St. Louis, not Houston. Overall, Suppan is now 1-5 against the Astros this year, with four of the losses coming in games started by Roger Clemens.

Say What?: Astros second baseman Jeff Kent and outfielder Lance Berkman seem to disagree on a few things.

"Today was a must-win. Tomorrow is a must-win. We're not shying away from that pressure," Berkman said after Houston beat St. Louis 5-2 in Game 3 of the NLCS. "There's no room for error."

Responded Kent: "I am so tired of this. People saying, 'We must win this and must win that.' That is so worn out. If our guys are saying it, it's worn out."

Berkman also saw the Cardinals' confident demeanor as "kind of like they couldn't believe we could win one."

Kent's take: "Berkman talks too much."

Timeout: Surprised to see that Reggie Sanders had stepped out of the batter's box, Roger Clemens wound up soft-tossing a ball into the St. Louis Cardinals' on-deck circle during the fourth inning.

Sanders was facing a 2-2 count with two outs and a runner on second base when he asked for time out from home plate umpire Gary Darling. He got it even though Clemens was on the rubber, head down, about to start his delivery.

Clemens didn't see what had happened and with a loud crowd wasn't able to hear anything. So the Houston ace already was committed to throwing the ball when he realized he didn't have to.

"Came close to letting that ball go flying," Clemens said. "I don't want to hold on to the baseball. I try and let the ball go regardless."

The ball came out about three-quarters of the way through his delivery and rolled harmlessly to the Cardinals' next batter, Mike Matheny.

"He wasn't throwing at me," Sanders said. "He just didn't want to give away his pitch. There was really nothing to it."

Clemens pointed in, as if to ask whether it was Sanders or Darling who wanted the stoppage. Sanders ended up walking.

Around the Bases: Clemens improved to 10-6 lifetime in the postseason. John Smoltz leads the list with 14 wins. Clemens, however, is a lot louder than the Atlanta ace-turned-closer.

"He's not afraid to yell in the dugout," Houston catcher Brad Ausmus said. "It's not at any one person necessarily, but he gets his point across. And you don't want to make a mistake and get that Roger Clemens stare."

The Cardinals have not made an error in six postseason games. They are the only team to reach this year's playoffs and not make a miscue.

Carlos Beltran's seven homers are one behind the record for most in a postseason. Barry Bonds hit eight for San Francisco in 2002; that same year, Anaheim's Troy Glaus hit seven in becoming the World Series MVP.

The Cardinals played their 150th postseason game. They're 80-70 overall with nine World Series championships.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press