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Cardinals Must Trump Arizona's Pair of Aces

October 01, 2002|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series last year by beating the New York Yankees, the nation's sentimental favorite.

In the National League division series that begins Tuesday night, Arizona will face a St. Louis Cardinal team that overcame the deaths of pitcher Darryl Kile and broadcaster Jack Buck to win the Central Division.

"People look at us and say 'Oh, a team of destiny,' " Cardinal pitcher Matt Morris said.

"But it's not always a fairy-tale ending."

Arizona Manager Bob Brenly said his team sympathizes with the Cardinals, but can't let that affect anything once the game begins.

"Being a manager for the last two years, I cannot tell you the admiration I have for Tony La Russa and his staff and the entire Cardinal organization for what they have endured this year," Brenly said.

"What the Cardinals have had to go through is something we would never wish on anybody.... We sympathize with all of the families involved.

"In the context of playing the game on the field, we don't feel sorry for them and we don't expect them to feel sorry for us."

Morris (17-9) finds himself in a familiar position as starter in Game 1 of the division series against the Diamondbacks, who will counter with Randy Johnson (24-5).

Morris had two outstanding outings in Games 1 and 5 of last year's division series against Arizona, but lost to Curt Schilling both times.

"This is my first time facing Randy, actually squaring off," Morris said. "I get to see what his fastball looks like up close."

Johnson's loss to the Cardinals in Game 2 last year was his lone defeat of the postseason. He went 5-0 after that, including a record three victories in the World Series. Since that October loss, Johnson is 29-5.

He won his third consecutive Cy Young Award last year, then had a better season in 2002, becoming the first NL player since Dwight Gooden in 1985 to win pitching's "triple crown" of wins (24), strikeouts (334) and earned-run average (2.32). His reputation as a postseason flop seems ancient history.

La Russa plans to have three left-handed batters in the lineup against Johnson.

"With the guys we have now, our left-handers hang in there real good against left-handers," La Russa said. "The way Randy is, he's just as tough against a right-hander. He's just different."

Johnson has great respect for the Cardinal lineup, which already was powerful before the trade that brought Scott Rolen from Philadelphia.

"The St. Louis Cardinals lineup you are going to see probably is the best lineup in all of the postseason, in my estimation," Johnson said. "You don't have two or three hitters you need to be careful with, you have four or five that command your attention."

Arizona plans to go with a three-man rotation. Johnson would come back on a four days' rest if there is a Game 4 on Sunday, and Schilling would go on three days' rest in Game 5 on Monday.

"We're here to win, so we're going to find a way to break through," La Russa said. "We will have eight tough outs in that lineup."

Asked what he would do if he faced the Cardinal lineup, Morris said, "I might drop the ball and walk off."

Morris has had a trying year, emotionally and physically. He was a good friend of Kile.

"I think about him every day," Morris said.

Just as he was recovering emotionally from that loss, Morris injured a hamstring.

"He took a savage hit when Darryl died. It was tough on him to put it all back together and I think he has shown a lot of great qualities to do it," La Russa said.

While the Cardinals rely on the big bats of Rolen, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria and Tino Martinez, among others, Arizona has lost its best run-producer, Luis Gonzalez, and its best clutch player, Craig Counsell, to season-ending injuries.

Last week, the Cardinals swept three from the Diamondbacks in St. Louis, which means very little, both sides agreed.

"Everything changes now," Schilling said.

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