ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Almost every ball David Eckstein hit was
trouble for the Tigers.
Helped by a soggy field, St. Louis' scrappy shortstop delivered
two key doubles that gave the Cardinals a firm grip on a World
Series that's quickly slipping away from Detroit.
Eckstein's tiebreaking double to left field glanced off the
glove of a diving Craig Monroe in the eighth inning, and the
Cardinals capitalized on Detroit's sloppy defense for a 5-4 victory
Thursday night in Game 4.
"I just needed to find some holes," Eckstein said. "It's nice
to actually have a little luck involved."
But St. Louis manager Tony La Russa says it's much more than
"He's the toughest guy I've ever seen in a uniform," La Russa
After Curtis Granderson slipped in center trying for an earlier
ball hit by Eckstein, rekindling memories of Curt Flood in the 1968
Series between these teams, St. Louis took a 3-1 lead to move
within one win of its first championship in 24 years.
One word of caution, Cardinals rooters: St. Louis had a 3-1 lead
in '68, too, before Detroit rallied to win behind lefty Mickey
The decisive hit that time came when Flood, a Gold Glove center
fielder, slipped on Jim Northrup's two-out, two-run triple off
Cardinals ace Bob Gibson to break a scoreless tie in the seventh
inning of Game 7 -- right across the street, where the old Busch
This time, the 5-foot-7 Eckstein hit three doubles and a single
as St. Louis overcame an early 3-0 deficit in a wild comeback and
closed in on its 10th World Series title. The last team to squander
a 3-1 Series lead, however, was the 1985 Cardinals against Kansas
After a rainout Wednesday night, only the second World Series
washout in 20 years, showers were expected again Thursday. But the
heavy stuff stayed away on a 53-degree night and much of the
back-and-forth game was played in a light mist that obscured the
Gateway Arch beyond center field.
The mist got heavier in the sixth, though, and the Tigers began
to struggle with the elements.
With St. Louis trailing 3-2 in the seventh, Eckstein hit a drive
to right-center that Granderson appeared to have in his sights
before he slipped to the slick turf, kicking up a huge divot. The
ball fell for an easy double.
"I went to plant my feet and they just went out from under
me," Granderson said. "It was just a freak thing. If I stand up,
I catch it easily.
"It wasn't just wet," he added. "It was wet and soft."
Pinch-hitter So Taguchi dropped down a sacrifice bunt, and
reliever Fernando Rodney rushed an off-balance throw over the head
of Placido Polanco covering at first base, allowing Eckstein to
score the tying run.
"I didn't position myself the right way to pick up the ball and
make the perfect throw," Rodney said. "I also didn't want to toss
it very strong because the fielder is trying to get to the base. It
just went badly out of my hand."
It was the fourth error by a Tigers pitcher in four games, a
record for one pitching staff in the World Series.
"Obviously, it was a little bit of a freak inning," Detroit
manager Jim Leyland said. "It's not our best fielding in the
world, but that's baseball."
But Ivan Rodriguez opened the eighth with a double and Brandon
Inge tied it with a double off rookie closer Adam Wainwright, who
avoided further damage by striking out pinch-hitter Alexis Gomez
Miles moved up when strike three to Juan Encarnacion got past
Rodriguez for a wild pitch, and Eckstein hit a drive to
Monroe sprinted to his left and laid out with a desperate dive,
but the ball ticked off the tip of his glove. The left fielder lay
prone on the grass as Miles scored the go-ahead run.
"Facing Zumaya, you want to make sure you don't try to
overswing," Eckstein said. "I got a fastball and was able to get
on top just enough, just barely out of the reach of Craig Monroe,
who almost made one heck of a catch."
Wainwright set down Detroit in order in the ninth to the delight
of another crowd that practically appeared dipped in Cardinal red.
With NL championship series MVP Jeff Suppan on the mound for St.
Louis, one sign read: Cold Night. Hot Supp.
The right-hander, sporting his full, dark beard, was quite a
contrast to the boyish-looking Jeremy Bonderman, who made his
Series debut for Detroit only two days shy of his 24th birthday.
Suppan allowed three runs in six innings. Bonderman, making his
first start in 12 days, was staked to a three-run lead and was
visibly steamed when he was pulled after 5 1-3 innings with the
score 3-2. He slammed his glove and hat on the bench, knocking over
a full cup, and kicked the ground.
But Rodney preserved the lead -- for one inning, at least -- when
he struck out Miles and pinch-hitter John Rodriguez with runners at
Rodney whiffed Rodriguez with a 97 mph fastball as catcher Ivan
Rodriguez popped out of his crouch and pumped his fist.
In the second, Sean Casey golfed a 1-0 pitch into the Cardinals'
bullpen in right field for his first career postseason home run. It
also was the first homer off Suppan this postseason. Rodriguez then
grounded a single to right, ending an 0-for-23 slump since Game 1
of the ALCS.
Granderson doubled to start the third, his first hit in 15 World
Series at-bats, and scored on Casey's two-out single. Rodriguez
followed with an RBI single, making it 3-0.
But La Russa stayed aggressive, calling for a hit-and-run with
Suppan batting in the third. Suppan swung through a strike as Miles
stole second against Rodriguez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner who
led major league catchers by throwing out 46 percent of attempted
basestealers this season.
The gamble paid off when Eckstein hit a two-out double over a
leaping Carlos Guillen at shortstop. La Russa yelled "Yeah!" and
did a little spin in the corner of the dugout.
Scott Rolen strained for a one-out double in the fourth, diving
headfirst into second and clutching the outside of the bag with a
firm-fingered grip after Monroe got twisted around on a slow
retrieval of the ball.
With two outs, Molina hit an RBI double past a diving Inge at
third, cutting it to 3-2.
Eckstein was the 57th player to get four or more hits in a
Series game and the first since Larry Walker of the Cardinals in
Game 1 in 2004. … Rolen has a nine-game hitting streak in the
postseason. … Bonderman entered 0-for-19 with 12 career
strikeouts at the plate. He went 0-for-2 and fanned once, but did
execute his first sacrifice bunt in the sixth.