MLB Insiders - Cardinals Go For Sweep

Wainwright - The Right Stuff

For the Cardinals to lose the National League Division Series would be almost unprecedented. Of course, if their late season collapse had culminated in blowing the Central Division title, that would have been unprecedented, too.

But the fact of the matter is that the Cardinals, after a 2-0 triumph over the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the Division Series on Thursday, have a 2-0 edge in games, too. No National League team ever has won the first two games on the road in a five-game series and not won the series. And only the 2001 Oakland Athletics have managed the feat in the American League.

The Cardinals have done it with pitching and defense, especially keeping the Padres hitters off balance with a succession of breaking balls. "I don't recall a staff throwing that many curveballs for strikes," San Diego left fielder Dave Roberts said.

Against a San Diego lineup stacked with eight left-handed batters, Cardinals right-hander Jeff Weaver, against whom left-handers had batted .357 this year, held the Padres to two hits and no runs for five innings.

Weaver pitched around two first-inning walks before finding himself. "To get that third out in the first inning and keep it a zero was definitely huge," said Weaver.

The Cardinals return home for Game 3 and possibly Game 4 of the series with their two best starters, right-handers Jeff Suppan and Chris Carpenter, lined up.

REPLAY: First baseman Albert Pujols helped win Game 1 of the National League Division Series with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Pujols won Thursday's second game by singling home a run in the fourth inning and then, after dodging a rundown, scoring the second run on an infield hit by center fielder Jim Edmonds.

Cardinals relievers have tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings, with Adam Wainwright finishing both games.

--1B Albert Pujols had a double and two singles and is 5-for-8 in the first two games of the series.

--Cardinals pitchers have held the Padres to 10 hits in the first two games and none in 10 at-bats with men in scoring position.

--Manager Tony La Russa is 8-0 against San Diego manager Bruce Bochy in three first-round series.

--LHP Tyler Johnson has struck out four hitters in two innings and new closer Adam Wainwright, also a rookie, has fanned four in 2 2/3 innings. Each has given up only one hit.

--RHP Josh Kinney, a third rookie, worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings in his playoff debut Thursday.

BY THE NUMBERS: .357 -- Left-handed hitters' batting average against Cardinals RHP Jeff Weaver this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just wanted to stay away from the extra-base hits and things of that nature and was able to throw a lot of quality breaking balls to keep these guys off-balance." -- RHP Jeff Weaver after his Game 2 start.

ANALYZING THE BULLPEN:

RHP Adam Wainwright is looking like a natural as the closer, and LHP Tyler Johnson has pitched well in both games. Seemingly a weakness going into the series, the Cardinals' bullpen suddenly looks like a strength.

MEDICAL WATCH:

SS David Eckstein, who had been out since Aug. 19 because of a strained left oblique muscle, was activated from the disabled list Sept. 15. He left the game Sept. 24 with a left hamstring strain, and he didn't start Sept. 25-28. He was back in the lineup Sept. 29.

3B Scott Rolen has been playing through a sore left shoulder.

CF Jim Edmonds left the game Aug. 15 with dizziness caused by post-concussion syndrome. He appeared several times as a defensive replacement and a pinch hitter before returning to the lineup Aug. 25. He didn't play Aug. 26-Sept. 24, but he returned Sept. 25 as a pinch hitter. He was back in the starting lineup Sept. 26. He sat out Oct. 1 with a hyperextended foot. He played in Game 1 of the Division Series but appeared to re-injure himself when he tried to make a diving catch in the eighth inning. However, he was back in the lineup in Game 2.

RHP Jason Isringhausen had arthroscopic surgery on his left hip on Sept. 21, and he is out for the season. He hadn't pitched since Sept. 6 because of pain in the hip.

LHP Mark Mulder, who had been out since June 21 with a left shoulder strain, was activated from the disabled list on Aug. 23. He was hit hard in starts Aug. 23 and Aug. 29, and went back on the DL on Aug. 31. He had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 12 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.

OF Larry Bigbie went on the disabled list June 6 with a hernia, and he had surgery on June 8. He started a rehab assignment July 12, but he was shut down July 22 after suffering abdominal pain. He resumed his rehab Aug. 2 with Double-A Springfield, then was shut down again in mid-August because of abdominal discomfort.

LHP Ricardo Rincon went on the disabled list retroactive to April 19 with a left shoulder injury. He underwent surgery to repair rotator cuff and impingement problems and will miss the remainder of the season.

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