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Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals | REPORT

No Free Pass for Beltran

October 18, 2004|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON — Tony La Russa might consider giving Carlos Beltran what some managers refer to as "the Barry Bonds treatment," except that the St. Louis Cardinal manager doesn't treat Bonds any differently than light-hitting Dodger Brent Mayne.

"We don't like telling our pitchers they're not good enough to get hitters out," La Russa said after Beltran's seventh-inning homer had propelled the Houston Astros to a 6-5 victory over the Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League championship series.

Although Beltran has homered in each game of the series, La Russa said the Cardinals wouldn't start intentionally walking the switch-hitter because of the talent behind Beltran in the Astro batting order.

"You have some very tough outs, a lot of producers behind him," said La Russa, referring to Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent, each of whom drove in at least 89 runs during the regular season.

What makes Beltran so tough is his ability to hit a variety of pitches in almost any location. The pitch Beltran hit for the winner Sunday off reliever Julian Tavarez was an 81-mph slider just off the shoe tops.

"After I took two [sliders] in the back door, I knew that he probably was going to throw another one, so I just told myself, 'Relax, stay back and try to put the ball in play,' " Beltran said. "That's what I did. I saw the ball and I hit it with the fat part of the bat."

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Houston right fielder Berkman said he was surprised to see St. Louis pitcher Jason Marquis attempt to stretch his fourth-inning single into a double after hitting a bouncer past diving second baseman Kent.

"I didn't know what was going on," said Berkman, whose throw to shortstop Jose Vizcaino beat Marquis sliding into second.

"I don't know if he thought I bobbled it or what -- maybe he was just trying to catch me napping out there -- but I'm glad it worked out because that turned out to be a pretty big play."

The Cardinals eventually scored one run in the inning on a walk and two singles, but Marquis' gaffe cost them a potentially big inning.

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Bengie and Jose would be proud.

Yadier Molina, the youngest of the Molina brothers, turned in a performance to remember in his first postseason start for the Cardinals, singling in the sixth and throwing out Craig Biggio trying to steal second in the same inning.

Yadier's elder brothers are Angel catchers.

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