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Many Taking Part in Home Run Derby

REPORT

October 17, 2004|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON — The Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals have combined for 16 homers in the first three games of the series, putting them on pace to break the NL championship series mark of 23 set by the Chicago Cubs and Florida Marlins in 2003 if this series goes the distance.

Leading the barrage is Houston's Carlos Beltran, whose eighth-inning solo homer Saturday during the Astros' 5-2 victory was his third of the series and seventh in eight postseason games. Beltran needs one more homer to tie Barry Bonds' all-time postseason mark of eight set in 2002 -- in 17 games.

"He just continues to amaze you," Houston Manager Phil Garner said of Beltran. "If he keeps hitting the wall out there, he's going to cause a little structural damage to the stadium. He's hitting the ball extremely hard."

Said Astro first baseman Jeff Bagwell: "He's a special talent, and I can go on and on about him."

Houston leads St. Louis, 9-7, in homers but would gladly trade that statistic for the Cardinals' two-games-to-one edge in the series. Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent have homered twice for the Astros, a feat also accomplished by the Cardinals' Larry Walker and Albert Pujols.

"If you look at the home runs that have been hit by both sides, they've been all hittable pitches," St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa said. "Mistakes, guys are punishing. They're not popping any of them up."

*

Roy Oswalt played high school baseball in a small Mississippi town and once suffered the indignity of being told by the coach of a team from a larger school he couldn't compete at their level.

Today, Oswalt will start Game 4 of the NL championship series for the Astros.

"I had, I think, two other guys I faced in other high schools that I believe could have played anywhere else too," said Oswalt, the NL's only 20-game winner. "But we just didn't get looked at.

"It's good. It made me drive harder. Sometimes guys get looked over because of the competition they're facing, but it doesn't mean they can't compete at a high level."

And the coach at the school who doubted Oswalt? Is he still there?

"Yes, he is," Oswalt said, smiling.

*

La Russa opted not to start Roger Cedeno in left field Saturday even though Cedeno had started in three of the four games Roger Clemens pitched against the Cardinals during the regular season.

La Russa said he liked the way Reggie Sanders was competing and preferred to keep Cedeno on the bench as a pinch-hitting threat. Cedeno had hit .435 in 23 career at-bats against Clemens before striking out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Sanders finished hitless in three at-bats with a fourth-inning walk.

*

Cardinal reliever Steve Kline, recovering from a torn tendon in the index finger of his throwing hand that he aggravated during Game 2, was unavailable Saturday. La Russa said Kline's injury had improved and remained optimistic the left-hander would be available later in the series.

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