* Today--San Diego (Joey Hamilton 15-9) at St. Louis (Todd Stottlemyre 14-11), 1 p.m., ESPN.
* Thursday--San Diego (Scott Sanders 9-5) at St. Louis (Andy Benes 18-10), 1 p.m., ESPN.
* Saturday--St. Louis (Donovan Osborne 13-9) at San Diego (Andy Ashby 9-5), 4:30 p.m., NBC.
* Sunday--(If necessary) St. Louis at San Diego, 8 p.m., ESPN.
* Monday--(If necessary) St. Louis at San Diego, 1 p.m., ESPN.
San Diego 91-71; St. Louis 88-74.
HEAD TO HEAD
St. Louis won season series, 8-4.
Player: Jody Reed
Player: Joey Hamilton
* Analysis: The Padres removed any doubt about their fiber and tenacity by winning the West Division with a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium. The often unsung Padre relief pitchers produced the best ERA in the majors. The Padres averaged 4.8 runs a game and boast a seven-time batting champion in Gwynn and the leading candidate for most valuable player in Caminiti, who hit 40 homers and drove in 130 runs. Henderson--the left-field choice over Greg Vaughn in the opener because of his postseason experience--was fourth in the league in walks and fifth in on-base percentage. Regular catcher John Flaherty missed the last six games because of a sprained left ankle but is available to pinch-hit and is expected to start at some point.
* Key reserves: Vaughn is hitting only .206 with 10 homers as a Padre, but has 41 homers overall. Archie Cianfrocco is batting .281, Scott Livingstone .297 and is 19 for 61 as a pinch-hitter.
* Team batting: .265.
* Team pitching: 3.72 ERA.
CARDINALS AT A GLANCE
Player: Royce Clayton
Player: Willie McGee
Player: Ron Gant
Player: Brian Jordan
Player: Gary Gaetti
Player: John Mabry
Player: Tom Pagnozzi
Player: Luis Alicea
Player: Todd Stottlemyre
* Analysis: The Cardinals were 48-32 at home and 11-1 in September, but they face a difficult task without center fielder Ray Lankford, who tore his left rotator cuff Friday and is out until Game 3 at least. Lankford led the Cardinals in runs, total bases, doubles, triples, steals and walks. He was second on the club in RBIs with 86, and third in homers with 21. The venerable Willie McGee, who returned to St. Louis at 37 and hit .303, will replace Lankford in center, but the loss of Lankford's speed could be pivotal for a team that was fourth in the league in stolen bases and further weakens a weak bench, taking McGee off it. The Cardinals will go with Royce Clayton at shortstop in the opener but Ozzie Smith is expected to start at least one game.
* Key reserves: Ozzie Smith, hitting .282; Mark Sweeney, hitting .265; Dimitri Young, hitting .241; Danny Sheaffer, hitting .228, and Mike Gallego, hitting .211.
* Team batting: .267.
* Team pitching: 3.97.
KEY TO THE SERIES
Can St. Louis compensate for the loss of Lankford? Will Tony La Russa's postseason experience provide an advantage against San Diego counterpart Bruce Bochy? How will the starting pitchers on each side respond to October pressure. Only Stottlemyre and Benes, among the six, have pitched in the playoffs, and neither distinguished himself. Stottlemyre is 0-3 in postseason play, having given up 20 earned runs in 24 innings. Benes gave up 13 earned runs in 14 innings of three appearances with Seattle last year, but is on a roll, having won 17 of his last 20 decisions.