NEW YORK (AP) -- So Taguchi laughed, and it felt so good.
"I can't explain. It's unbelievable," he said. "Who expected
that I would hit a home run? Maybe nobody. Even me."
No power threat during the regular season, Taguchi is a playoff
slugger now -- and St. Louis is heading to Busch Stadium tied with
the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.
After Scott Spiezio saved the Cardinals in the seventh with a
two-run triple that was nearly a home run, Taguchi hit a
tiebreaking homer off closer Billy Wagner leading off a three-run
ninth inning that lifted St. Louis to a 9-6 victory over New York
on Friday night.
NL Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter faltered, allowing a
pair of go-ahead home runs to Carlos Delgado that drove in four
runs. But the Cardinals tied the game after trailing 3-0 and 4-2,
then came back again after falling behind 6-4.
"This may have been the best comeback on a club I've been
around," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
During the regular season, the 37-year-old Taguchi homered just
twice in 316 at-bats this year. But the Japanese player is 2-for-2
with a pair of homers in the postseason, also connecting off San
Diego's Scott Linebrink in Game 3 of the first round.
"He plays well late," La Russa said. "He's not intimated at
all by pressure situations."
Taguchi had entered as a defensive replacement in left in the
eighth after La Russa saw Wagner warming up.
"Right now?" he asked La Russa. "He said, 'Yes."'
Wagner entered with the score 6-all in the ninth. Taguchi,
0-for-5 against him in his career, fell behind in the count 0-2,
fouled off a pitch, took three balls, fouled off two more and then
drove a fastball from the hard-throwing Wagner over the left-field
"He's got a flair for the dramatic," Spiezio said.
Spiezio added an RBI double and scored on Juan Encarnacion's
run-scoring single off Wagner, who had earned the save in New
York's opening 2-0 win Thursday night but was booed when he walked
back to the dugout after being removed with two outs.
"I just did not pitch up to standards," Wagner said.
New York threw 200 pitches -- and St. Louis batters fouled off 55
"We made some bad pitches at the wrong times," Mets manager
Willie Randolph said.
Spiezio, playing because slumping All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen was benched with a sore shoulder, nearly had a home run in
the seventh -- but right fielder Shawn Green got his glove above the
wall, and the ball ricocheted off the thumb, then hit the top of
the fence and bounced back onto the field.
"I felt like I had a shot, and obviously I did because it hit
the glove," Green said. "It just didn't work out,
Right field umpire Tim Welke got the initial call right and,
after La Russa came onto the field, the umpires huddled and upheld
the decision, which replays confirmed.
"I felt I had the call correct the entire way," Welke said in
a statement. "The entire crew was in agreement from their
respective vantage points."
Yadier Molina had a two-run double in the second and Jim Edmonds
hit a two-run homer in the third for St. Louis, and Josh Kinney got
the win by pitching a scoreless eighth -- getting Carlos Beltran to
ground into an inning-ending double play with two runners on base.
Carlos Delgado drove in four runs with a three-run homer and a
solo shot off Carpenter, but John Maine lasted just four innings
and while he gave up two hits, each drove in two runs. He walked
five and threw 92 pitches -- three more than Tom Glavine needed to
get through seven shutout innings the night before.
"It was a lost opportunity," the Mets' David Wright said.
Carpenter had trouble controlling his curveball and struggled
with plate umpire Jim Joyce's tight strike zone, allowing five
runs, six hits and four walks in five innings.
"It was crazy," he said. "Obviously I didn't do the job I
wanted to do."
Because of Wednesday's rainout, there is not a travel day. When
the series shifts Saturday night to the new Busch Stadium, Steve
Traschel (15-8) pitches for the Mets against Jeff Suppan (12-7).
It was 54 degrees at gametime, down 13 from the opener.
Shortstop Jose Reyes wore a black ski cap with a Mets logo during
batting practice, and some of the umpires wore gloves during the
New York broke on top quickly. Reyes doubled leading off,
Beltran walked with one out and Delgado hit a 440-foot,
opposite-field drive into the left-center field bleachers for a 3-0
But Delgado made a key error in the second. Edmonds walked
leading off and Spiezio hit a grounder down the first-base line
that should have been one out and possibly two. The ball glanced
off Delgado's glove for an error that put runners on second and
third, and Encarnacion followed with a walk that loaded the bases.
Maine got Ronnie Belliard to hit an infield popup, but Molina hit
an opposite-field double to right, closing the Cardinals to 3-2.
Endy Chavez, Floyd's replacement, was 0-for-11 against Carpenter
coming in but doubled to right leading off the bottom half and
scored on Reyes' single for a 4-2 lead. That was the last hit
Carpenter allowed until Delgado's second homer.
Paul Lo Duca hit an RBI double off Josh Hancock that scored the
speedy Reyes from first in the sixth -- the first run in the
postseason off the Cardinals' bullpen, which had thrown 16
Albert Pujols ended an 0-for-12 slide with a two-out single in
the seventh off Mota. Pujols singled, doubled and walked, scoring
"We've had much bigger challenges than this and we always
respond," Randolph said. "We've responded all year. I don't think
we're going to change now."
The only other multihomer game for the Mets in the NLCS was
by Rusty Staub in Game 3 in 1973 against Cincinnati. ... The Mets
were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, dropping to
2-for-15 in the series.