Houston at St. Louis 8:28 pm EDT
National League Championship Series St. Louis leads, 1-0
ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- In order to avoid going home in a hole, the
Houston Astros will have to reverse a dominant trend in the
National League Championship Series.
The two teams played a memorable NLCS last season with the home
team taking all seven games, and the trend continued this year
with the Cardinals' 5-3 win in Wednesday's Game One.
"He's hot. He's a good hitter and he's got hot," Astros manager
Phil Garner said of Sanders. "You make a mistake and he's
St. Louis wants to keep alive the home team's success Thursday
and hopes another trend remains true. The last 12 teams to win
an NLCS opener have advanced to the World Series.
"I think it's huge," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of
winning Game One. "With the 2-3-2 format, you let this one get
away from you, and who knows what's going to happen tomorrow and
then you have three at their place."
Oswalt (1-0, 3.68 ERA) had a 6.75 ERA in two games and one start
against the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS but allowed just one run
in seven innings of a 3-1 win here September 27.
"We got to be ready to play tomorrow night," said St. Louis
shortstop David Eckstein after Wednesday's win. "They have
another tough pitcher, they got Oswalt tomorrow night. It's
going to be another battle out there and so we just got to come
out and grind out every single at-bat and play a hard nine
The only major league pitcher to record 20 victories in each of
the past two seasons, Oswalt allowed three runs in 7 1/3 strong
innings to lead the Astros to a 7-3 win over Atlanta in Game
Three of the NL Division Series.
He will be opposed by Mark Mulder (1-0, 1.35), who has shined in
three division series in his career but never pitched in an
LCS. The 6-6 lefthander took a line drive off his pitching arm
in Game Two of the NLDS against San Diego but recovered to toss
6 2/3 stellar frames of a 6-2 victory.
The win gave Mulder a record of 3-2 with a 2.05 ERA in five
career postseason starts. He was 1-1 with a 2.48 mark in four
starts against Houston this year.
Sanders' homer Wednesday gave him 12 RBI in four playoff games
this year and at least one in his last 10 games dating to the
regular season. Carpenter had a successful squeeze to give St.
Louis a 3-0 lead in the second inning and Eckstein and Albert
Pujols made it 5-0 with RBI singles in the fifth.
Including Game One, Sanders is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with six
home runs and 15 RBI in 12 games against the Astros in 2004.
"Hey, it's not that easy, I tell you, it's not that easy at
all," Sanders said of his success against Houston. "As a
hitter, all we try to do is just get a pitch that we can handle
and lay off the other stuff."
The Cardinals have won nine straight home games in the NLDS and
"It's one ballgame. This is a best out of seven," Garner said.
"Last year we took it to the limit, but clearly we'll have our
work cut out for us. This club bounces back and we'll bounce