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World title is in the Cards



Published: Sat, October 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



David Eckstein won the MVP as St. Louis beat Detroit 4-2 for its first championship since 1982.

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Favored by few, the St. Louis Cardinals used an unlikely cast of characters to win their first World Series in nearly a quarter century.

Jeff Weaver dominated, David Eckstein drove in two runs on balls that didn't leave the infield and the Cards took advantage of another wild throw by a Tigers pitcher to beat Detroit 4-2 on Friday night and won the Series in five games.

"I think we shocked the world," Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "It's an unbelievable experience."

Manager Tony La Russa's Cardinals had just 83 regular season wins, the fewest by a World Series winner, and nearly missed the playoffs after a late-season slump. But the Cardinals beat San Diego and the New York Mets in the playoffs, then won their first title since 1982 by taming a heavily favored Tigers team that entered the Series with six days' rest.

After closer Adam Wainwright struck out Brandon Inge for the final out, the ballpark erupted. Wainwright raised his arms in triumph, catcher Yadier Molina ran to the mound and the pair bounced off toward second base, where they were joined by teammates running out from the dugout and the bullpen.

"I don't think anybody in uniform didn't do something in the postseason. Everyone did," said La Russa, whose uniform number -- 10 -- now matches the team's World Series titles. "The defense was great. The pitching was great. Timely hitting. The best bench I've had in a long time. They just refused for us to lose."

Minutes later fireworks filled the sky above the ballpark.

MVP

Eckstein, the 5-foot-7 shortstop who had four hits in Game 4, was the Series MVP.

"No one believed in us, but we believed in ourselves," Eckstein said.

On a cold Midwest night more suitable to football than baseball, the Tigers made two more errors, raising their Series total to eight -- three by Inge, the third baseman, and a record five by their pitchers. Eight of the 22 runs allowed by the Tigers were unearned, the most by a team since the 1956 New York Yankees against Brooklyn.

While the Tigers tossed the ball to the tarp, the Cardinals were mostly crisp, with the notable exception of right fielder Chris Duncan, who dropped a fly ball just before Sean Casey's two-run homer in the fourth put Detroit ahead 2-1.

St. Louis came right back to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom half as pitcher Justin Verlander threw away a ball for the second time in two starts, and Scott Rolen added a big run with a two-out RBI single in the seventh off reliever Fernando Rodney, extending his postseason hitting streak to 10 games.

It was the Cardinals' first title since 1982 and the first for the NL since the 2003 Florida Marlins. La Russa, who led the Oakland Athletics to a sweep in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 Bay Bridge Series, joined Sparky Anderson (Cincinnati and Detroit) as the only managers to win Series titles in each league.

Bad stretch

The Cardinals (83-78) almost didn't even make it to the postseason. They had a seven-game NL Central lead with 12 to go but lost eight of nine before recovering to finish 11/2 games ahead of Houston, the defending NL champion.

"The team that wins a world championship is the team that played the best," La Russa said.

As the Tigers failed in their bid for their first title since 1984, their season ended with Kenny Rogers rested and ready with no place to pitch. Rogers, who threw 23 shutout innings in the postseason, was saved by manager Jim Leyland for a possible sixth game today in Detroit.

Weaver, cast off by the Yankees three years ago after a World Series flop, allowed four hits in eight innings, matched his season high with nine strikeouts and walked one before Wainwright finished for the save. St. Louis pitchers held Detroit to a .205 average (33-for-161) over the five games.

Verlander gave up three runs -- one earned -- and three hits, recovering from early control problems to give the Tigers a decent effort.

DETROITST. LOUIS

abrhbiabrhbi

Grndsn cf3010Eckstin ss4122

Monroe lf4000Duncan rf2000

Zmaya p0000PrWlsn lf0000

CGillen ss4000Pujols 1b3010

MOrdz rf4100Edmnd cf4000

Casey 1b4132Rolen 3b3011

RSntgo pr0000Blliard 2b4000

IRdrgz c4000YMolna c4230

Planco 2b3000Tguchi lf3110

Inge 3b4010JfWevr p3000

Vrlnder p2000Spiezio ph1000

AGmez ph1000Wnwrgt p0000

Rodney p0000

Thmes lf0000

Totals33252Totals31483

Detroit000200000--2

St. Louis01020010x--4

E--Inge (3), Verlander (2), Duncan (1). DP--Detroit 1. LOB--Detroit 6, St. Louis 8. 2B--Casey 2 (2), Inge (2). HR--Casey (2). CS--Pujols (1). S--Taguchi.

IPHRERBBSO

Detroit

Verlander L,0-2663134

Rodney121110

Zumaya100001

St. Louis

JfWeaver W,1-1842119

Wainwright S,1110011

WP--Verlander 2, Wainwright. Umpires--Home, John Hirschbeck; First, Tim McClelland; Second, Randy Marsh; Third, Alfonso Marquez; Left, Wally Bell; Right, Mike Winters. T--2:56. A--46,638.




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