ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The final day of the regular season was doubly
pleasing to St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. His
team won its first NL ERA title since 1969 and his son, Chris, hit
the game-winning home run.
"I'm proud of them both," Duncan said after the Cardinals
posted their 100th victory by rallying past Cincinnati 7-5 Sunday
in the last regular-season game at Busch Stadium. "A lot of work
goes into winning an ERA title, these guys have to really put their
nose to the grindstone and be consistent.
"But I also know a lot of hard work has gone into Chris'
Reggie Sanders warmed up for the postseason with a home run and
double for the NL Central champions, who will begin the
best-of-five playoffs Tuesday at home against NL West champion San
Diego. The Padres won the season series 4-3.
"I know the stories that some people want to write, which is
the team with the worst record beats the team with the best
record," manager Tony La Russa said. "But during the season they
played us very tough."
The Cardinals swept the three-game series to reach the century
mark in consecutive years for the second time in franchise history
and first time since 1942-44. It's also the fourth 100-win season
for La Russa, who did it twice with the Oakland Athletics.
The Cardinals finished 1,760-1,409 in regular-season games at
Busch, which opened May 12, 1966. This has been their best decade
with a 307-180 record.
St. Louis overcame a fourth straight mediocre outing by their
starting pitcher, this one by Matt Morris, and came back from a 5-1
third-inning deficit. The Cardinals used eight relievers, tying a
major league record for a nine-inning game.
One of the relievers, Al Reyes, left with a sprained right elbow
and his availability for the playoffs is in doubt.
"I'm pretty concerned," Dave Duncan said. "It sounds to me
like the trainers and doctors are concerned, so naturally I'm
concerned about it."
Sanders' 21st homer in the sixth off Brandon Claussen (10-11)
gave him 10 RBI in the last six games and tied the score.
"No disrespect, I don't want to jinx myself," Sanders said.
"So I'm going to leave that one alone."
The next batter, Duncan, hit his first career homer to give the
Cardinals a 6-5 lead. Dave Duncan led the welcoming committee in
"He had a big grin on his face when I came in," Chris Duncan
said. "It was pretty neat. It was a rush."
A sellout crowd of 50,434, the largest of the season, gave the
Cardinals a franchise record 3,538,988 in attendance, with only 357
no-shows. They finished third in the majors behind the Yankees and
Felipe Lopez, Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns hit consecutive homers
leading off the third for the Reds, who lost seven of their last
eight and finished at 73-89, fifth place in the Central.
"We just kind of stopped after that," Ryan Freel said.
"That's been our story a lot of the year."
As a consolation prize, the Reds hit 222 homers to break the
franchise record of 221 set in 1956.
"You win games with pitching," manager Jerry Narron said.
"It's nice to score a lot of runs ... but this game is all about
pitching and defense."
Morris, the longest tenured Cardinal who has been with the team
since 1997, gave up five runs on eight hits in only three innings
in his 128th appearance at Busch. Morris, who began the season 10-1
and finished 14-10 with a 4.11 ERA, is the likely starter for Game
3 of the division series against the Padres.
Morris was relieved the Cardinals won the ERA title in spite of
"Did we?" he said. "I was afraid to ask."
Jason Isringhausen working the ninth for his 39th save in 43
chances. Brad Thompson (4-0) worked a perfect fifth.
Consecutive doubles by Austin Kearns and Jose Valentin produced
the game's first run in the second and Lopez, Dunn and Kearns
connected in a span of six pitches in the third to put the Reds
Sanders doubled and scored on Mark Grudzielanek's infield hit
off the second-base bag in the bottom of the second, the Cardinals
got five straight singles in a three-run fourth that cut the gap to
David Eckstein's RBI single in the seventh off Josh Hancock put
the Cardinals ahead 7-5.
The Cardinals won the ERA title by three percentage points
over the Astros. ... Broadcaster and former Cardinals player Mike
Shannon threw out a pair of first pitches with Hall of Famer Red
Schoendienst on the receiving end. ... The last time the Reds hit
three straight homers was Aug. 3, 2001, at San Diego when Dmitri
Young, Jason La Rue and Pokey Reese connected. ... Albert Pujols
had an infield hit in four at-bats, finishing at .330 with 41
homers and 117 RBI -- all among the league leaders.