CARDINALS' PROJECTED LINEUP
* Keys to the series: A late-season slide in which the Cardinals felt the effects of injuries to closer Jason Isringhausen, shortstop David Eckstein and center fielder Jim Edmonds could quickly fade from memory if first baseman Albert Pujols continues his recent power play and ace Chris Carpenter maintains his Cy Young Award-winning form. With a middling supporting cast of Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis also in the rotation mix, the Cardinals may need two spectacular starts from Carpenter to advance to the NL championship series for a third consecutive year. Fill-in closers Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper also must step it up a notch after struggling to replace Isringhausen.
*--* P Player AVG HR RBI SS David Eckstein 292 2 23 LF Chris Duncan 293 22 43 1B Albert Pujols 331 49 137 RF Juan Encarnacion 278 19 79 3B Scott Rolen 296 22 95 CF Jim Edmonds 257 19 70 2B Ronnie Belliard 272 13 67 C Yadier Molina 216 6 49
PADRES' PROJECTED LINEUP
*--* P Player AVG HR RBI LF Dave Roberts 293 2 44 RF Brian Giles 263 14 83 1B Adrian Gonzalez 304 24 82 C Mike Piazza 283 22 68 3B Russell Branyan 228 18 36 CF Mike Cameron 268 22 83 SS Geoff Blum 254 4 34 2B Josh Barfield 280 13 58
* Keys to the series: The only NL team to post a sub-4.00 earned-run average, the Padres hope their pitching can help them avenge last season's first-round sweep by the Cardinals. Game 2 starter Chris Young has arguably emerged as the ace of a rotation that includes Jake Peavy and Woody Williams. Late-season pickup David Wells won two of five starts after joining the Padres but has plenty of postseason experience and could be the X factor. Outfielders Mike Cameron, Brian Giles and Dave Roberts must continue to provide a blend of power, speed and patience. Trevor Hoffman, baseball's all-time saves leader, wobbled a bit recently but still gives the Padres a ninth-inning edge.
-- BEN BOLCH
\o7Best-of-five division series (all times Pacific)\f7
* TODAY -- St. Louis (Carpenter 15-8) at San Diego (Peavy 11-14), 1 p.m., ESPN
* THURSDAY -- St. Louis (Suppan 12-7) at San Diego (Young 11-5), 1 p.m., ESPN
* SATURDAY -- San Diego at St. Louis, TBA
* SUNDAY -- San Diego at St. Louis, TBA, if necessary
* MONDAY -- St. Louis at San Diego, TBA, if necessary