Plenty of hype during the pre-game, but not as much as one would expect… especially for a Game 7 started by Roger Clemens. Psycho Lyons related a funny comment by our boy Scotty Rolen, which I’ve heard and seen him say thousands of times.
Why did the Phillies have to trade him?
Top of 1
Craig Biggio leads off with a homer tight to the line in left. He quickly circles the bases with his head down, but when he gets back to the dugout and sits down with his helmet off, he suddenly looks old.
There’s one for Astros.
Bottom of 1
Clemens retires the side in order, but reaches a three-ball count on each hitter. Rocket throws 18 pitches in the inning – nine balls and nine strikes. Bob Brenly points out on the telecast that Clemens always battles against a high pitch count.
“Sometimes he throws 100 pitches by the fifth inning,” Brenly exclaimed, as if it were an in-depth point.
And sometimes he likes to wear women’s underwear, mince around the house and be called “Sapphire,” but no one ever mentions that.
It’s still 1-0 for the ‘Stros.
Top of 2
That Thom Brenneman has a wonderful speaking voice. It’s forceful, yet kind. No one should feel annoyed when he announces that Jeff Suppan walked leadoff hitter Jeff Kent. Nor does anyone mind that he spells his first name “Thom.” To me that spelling says that Thom is willing to take the extra step. He’s not going to cheat anyone by hiding the “H” like all those sissy boys named “Tom.”
I like that.
I recall seeing Thom walk into the bathroom in the press box at Citizens Bank Park between innings when his Arizona Diamondbacks were in town last May. Thom took a urinal next to his broadcasting partner Mark Grace, who, as everyone knows, might be the funniest of all the good guys in the history of the game. Anyway, Grace and Thom were taking a leak as I was washing my hands when one of their cronies came into the room and started giving Grace a hard about taking a whiz between innings.
“Do you have time for that? What happens if you don’t make it back in time for the start of the inning? Aren’t you worried? You better hurry up,” the crony chided Grace.
“Doesn’t take too long to drain something this small,” Grace laughed back.
What a gem.
Jim Edmonds made a fantastic diving catch to rob extra bases from Brad Ausmus. Edmonds often is accused of hot-dogging and intentionally taking a slow route to the ball in order to make diving, highlight-reel catches because he loves the attention that comes with being on ESPN. However, in the seventh game of the NLCS, Edmonds isn’t going to pull such a stunt. He truly made a dynamic catch.
Thom exults it and it is replayed from three different angles and varying speeds before the Cardinals come up in the bottom half of the inning.
Bottom of 2
Rolen leads off and flies to center on the second pitch. After Clemens threw 18 pitches in the first, shouldn’t Rolen make the old man work a little more? Making matters worse, Edmonds grounded weakly to second on the first pitch. That’s two outs on three pitches for Clemens.
Reggie Sanders only takes a pitch before grounding to third.
Six up and six down for Clemens on 23 pitches
Top of 3
Missed the first part of the frame, but saw Carlos Beltran swipe second after drawing a walk. The stolen base coupled with an aggressive tag up on a routine fly to center helped Beltran score his record 12th run of the series when Edmonds’ throw skipped past Rolen at third.
Beltran has yet to be caught stealing in 38 attempts as a National Leaguer. Too bad he won’t keep the streak going next season when he’s making $20 million with the Yankees.
Bottom of 3
Tony Womack works Clemens to 2-2 before legging out a double to left-center. Mike Matheny smartly moves him over to third before pitcher Suppan lays down a perfect squeeze bunt. Great call by Tony La Russa. Womack timed it well by waiting for Clemens to commit to the plate before digging to the plate. Suppan can handle the bat pretty well for a pitcher. The only play was to first.
The squeeze makes it 2-1
Top of 4
I need to go for a run. Maybe I’ll hit the road at 9:45 or 10 p.m.
My son Michael had a bath and spent the evening at the Barnes & Noble with my wife. He’s going to have a bottle and go to bed while I contemplate running and watch Game 7.
Jeff Kent, the hero in Game 5, leads off by getting hit by a pitch. Meanwhile, the commentators are talking about La Russa’s uncanny ability to steal signs. Pretty fascinating. Sometimes, they say, La Russa will stand behind the cameras at the end of the dugout so he can get a clean view at his target without getting caught.
Morgan Ensberg singles to make it first and second with no outs. This gets the bullpen stirring for the Cardinals. Luckily for Suppan, he is able to get a ground out and a whiff from Brad Ausmus with runners on the corners. He gets Clemens to strikeout to wiggle out of the jam.
I recall writing a bunch of deadline stories about Suppan in 2003 and noting that making a deal for him would be a good move both financially and with the rotation. Apparently, general manager Ed Wade did not see what I wrote. In case he stumbles on here, I’ll re-post those old stories here and here.
Bottom of 4
Clemens sits down Larry Walker, Albert Pujols and Rolen in order. Of the 13 hitters he has faced, Clemens has thrown a first pitch strike to 11 hitters. Incidentally, Rolen is the only hitter he started with a pitch out of the zone.
Through four innings, Clemens has thrown 53 pitches (36 strikes), while Suppan has hucked 77 pitches.
Top of 5
Beltran hits a screamer to Rolen, but the big boy gobbles it up for the second out. Bagwell skies one to the track in left to end a pretty uneventful frame. Suppan really needed an easy one, especially against those big bats.
Bottom of 5
Thinking about that run but it’s raining. I hate running in the rain.
Edmonds leads off with a single for just the second hit off Clemens. The commentators just pointed out that the last time the Red Sox made it to the World Series, Clemens started Game 6 and won his first Cy Young Award. As soon as this is pointed out, the big right-hander strikes out Sanders.
Clemens, of course, was something of a novelty that summer of ’86. For those of us who didn’t live in New England, he kind of came out of nowhere. Actually, we knew about him because he struck out a record 15 hitters as a injury-riddled rookie in ’85, and had been the star pitcher for the College World Series-winning University of Texas, but he wasn’t a household name.
It’s funny what a 24-win season followed by 18 more seasons of averaging 16 wins a year does for a guy.
Anyway, Womack reached and was picked off by Ausmus thanks to a bad call by first-base umpire Eric Cooper.
I wonder what that Jim Wolf is doing?
Top of 6
Still raining. Looks like the run is off unless this game ends before midnight. I’d like to get one in sometime today.
Now Thom is talking about the Astros’ crazy run to the playoffs. I think the run is best described by Paul Hagen in the Daily News.
Wait a second… what happened to that inning? Looks like Suppan got out of it with 12 pitches. He’s up to 98 through six, but should be out of the game because he’s slated to leadoff the sixth.
Bottom of 6
Roger Cedeno singles for Suppan. Good choice in a hitter, because Cedeno is 11-for-25 against Clemens. Try to figure that out. Edgar Renteria bunts him to second and good old Larry Walker, cut from the same cloth as Mark Grace, hits a dribbler to Clemens for the second out.
Coincidentally, Walker and Biggio used to have some sort of communication via the bathroom in the visitor’s dugout at Veterans Stadium.
I took a picture of it.
How good is Albert Pujols? So good that he knows that Clemens is going to eventually throw him a fastball. He waits for it and laces a double to left to tie the game. Then, Rolen lines a first-pitch fastball over the fence in left to put the Cards up by two.
Anyone who knows me knows what I think about Rolen. Don’t get me started on him, because I’m not allowed to root.
It would interesting to hear what Rolen will say about his homer after the game. It will be even more interesting to hear what he says if his homer is the last hit Clemens allows in his career. I’m sure Scotty will tell his daughter about it. She’s due to arrive in January.
Top of 7
Orlando Palmeiro pinch hits for Clemens with two outs and reliever Kiko Calero hits him. It’s the only hiccup in the inning as the Cards hold on to the 4-2 lead.
Bottom of 7
Simple organ for the stretch. Sure is a far cry from Ronan Tynan at the Stadium. Meanwhile, the cameras zoomed in on Rolen during the playing of “God Bless America.” If the game holds with the current score, he’s the big star and Pujols is the MVP.
Smartly, astros’ skipper Phil Garner taps 20-game winner Roy Oswalt to relieve Clemens. His first pitch bounces five feet in front of the plate, but he impressively retires the side in order by striking out two.
Maybe Oswalt should have started in place of Clemens?
Top of 8
Here comes crazy Julian Tavarez, the John Holmes of Major League Baseball. Yeah, that’s right. He’s also a bit crazy, but that’s pretty well documented.
Renteria makes back-to-back good plays at short to retire Beltran and Jeff Bagwell. The Cardinals can smell it. Just for good measure, Renteria makes another stunning play, but when he rifles it to first, it smacks Tavarez on his glove-covered broken hand.
Bottom of 8
Old Phillie Marlon Anderson smacks a pinch double to start the frame. He comes around to score on Larry Walker’s single with two outs. The cardinals are so close they are starting to breathe heavy. You can see their hearts race.
Top of 9
Jason Isringhausen takes the ball and quickly retires the first two hitters. La Russa looks like he needs oxygen. When the final out is recorded, the Cards look relieved and like they are going to break into a group cry. Why not, there are tons of guys on that team who have played a long time and never made it to the World Series.
Larry Walker, Jim Edmonds are the old boys who are getting their first shot, while Rolen and Pujols are the kids who are stepping onto center stage. Then there are Sanders and Renteria, who seem to get to the Series every year.
Good for them.
For Rolen, he is getting what he left Philadelphia for. I wonder if all the headaches, arguments, back stabbings, name-calling, booing and mistreatment was worth it for Rolen.
From the way his face looked when his pregnant wife Nikki ran out onto the field to join in the celebration, it looked like everything was worth it. A man saw his dream come true by smacking a homer. His wife, pregnant with his first child, came onto the field to hug him, all of the TV people wanted to talk to him and his teammates wanted to pour champagne on his head. How cool is that?
Yeah, Philadelphia is a million miles away.