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The Cards are in command



Published: Fri, October 27, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



St. Louis defeated Detroit, 5-4, for a 3-1 Series lead.

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- David Eckstein went 4-for-5, including a two-out RBI double in the the bottom of the eighth inning, as the St. Louis Cardinals took command of the World Series with a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers Thursday night.

Eckstein's soft liner was headed for the left-center field gap, but Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe made a diving attempt at the catch. The ball glanced off the webbing of Monroe's glove and Aaron Miles, who moments earlier advanced to second on a wild pitch by Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, scored easily.

The victory gives the Cardinals, who won just 83 games in the regular season, a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the favored Tigers.

Game 5 is scheduled for tonight in St. Louis.

Sean Casey homered into the St. Louis bullpen and the Tigers came out swinging against Jeff Suppan, and led 3-2 after six innings.

Tigers started strong

A day off because of a rainout seemed to refresh the Tigers, who were hitting only .185 as a team. They also got a big boost from reliever Fernando Rodney, who bailed out starter Jeremy Bonderman from a sixth-inning jam.

Ivan Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson each got their first hits of the Series and Casey connected for the first postseason home run of his career. Casey's solo shot in the second landed smack in the middle of the Cardinals' bullpen -- naturally, none of the St. Louis relievers made any attempt to pick up the ball.

Scott Rolen doubled twice for the Cardinals, helping them rally from an early 3-0 deficit. After three games that largely lacked suspense, this one was shaping up as a tense affair.

The weather cooperated -- mostly, anyway. A light mist that shrouded the top of the Gateway Arch lifted by gametime and it was 53 degrees at the start, comfortable enough for Bonderman to come out wearing short sleeves.

Casey and Rodriguez delivered RBI singles with two outs in the third for a 3-0 lead. This was Suppan's first outing since he was voted MVP of the NL championship series last Thursday, and the Tigers were on to him.

Bonderman pitched for the first time in 12 days, and started strong. He struck out Albert Pujols to end the first and fanned Jim Edmonds to begin the second to silence the sellout crowd.

The 46,470 fans got on Bonderman, though, when he asked for help in cleaning his cleats later in the second. They hooted and hollered as he was given a tongue depressor to do the dirty work. Clearly still thinking about Kenny Rogers' shenanigans in Game 2, Cardinals fans were not about to give Bonderman a break.

St. Louis scores

The Cardinals broke through in the third when Aaron Miles singled and stole second -- it was the first steal attempt by either team in the Series, and showed that they would continue to be aggressive.

David Eckstein lined an RBI double for his second hit of the game, but Bonderman escaped further trouble by getting Pujols to ground out to strand two runners.

Rolen and Yadier Molina doubled in the fourth, making it 3-2. Rolen doubled again in the sixth and with runners on the corners, Rodney relieved with one out.

Rodney struck out Miles and fired a 97 mph fastball past pinch-hitter John Rodriguez to preserve the one-run lead.

Suppan was pulled after the sixth, and Josh Kinney took over for St. Louis in the seventh.

After Casey homered, Ivan Rodriguez followed with his first hit in a while, grounding a single to end an 0-for-23 slump that started in the AL championship series. He alertly took second on a fly ball to medium-deep center, and St. Louis intentionally walked No. 8 hitter Brandon Inge with two outs.

That brought up Bonderman, and he came to the plate with less-than-gaudy stats: 0-for-19 lifetime with 12 strikeouts. He hung tough, fouling off a couple of pitches before sharply grounding out.

The Cardinals took a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning, however, spurred by Eckstein's seemingly routine fly to center field that was misplayed by Curtis Granderson.

Granderson started back on the ball but slipped in the wet turf and Eckstein wound up on second base.

So Taguchi pinch-hit for Chris Duncan and bunted back to reliever Fernando Rodney, whose wild throw to first base wound up rolling down the right-field line and allowed Eckstein to score, tying the game at 3.

Taguchi wound up at second on the play.

After Albert Pujols was intentionally walked and Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen struck out, Preston Wilson drove home Taguchi with a single to left. Pujols was tagged out in a rundown to end the inning.




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