<
>

Cards roll past Tigers for first Series win since '82

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- No Fall Classic, for sure.

Flatter than the Midwestern heartland and a flop in the TV
ratings, this World Series crowned a champion that barely made it
to the postseason and then had to survive rain and cold as much as
the bumbling Detroit Tigers.


The St. Louis Cardinals will take it, though.

They beat the Tigers 4-2 in Game 5 on Friday night behind
castoffs Jeff Weaver and David Eckstein and sore-shouldered
Scott Rolen to wrap up their first Series title in nearly a
quarter-century and 10th overall.

"I think we shocked the world," Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds said.

Manager Tony La Russa's team had just 83 regular-season wins,
the fewest by a World Series champion, and nearly missed the
playoffs after a late-season slump.

But St. Louis beat San Diego and the New York Mets in the first
two rounds, then won its first title since 1982 by taming a heavily
favored Tigers team that entered the Series with six days' rest and
still looked stale.

Detroit pitchers made five errors, two more than the previous
Series record.

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 from the dugout and the bullpen. Ace starter Chris Carpenter and injured closer Jason Isringhausen gave La Russa bear
hugs.

Minutes later, fireworks filled the sky above the ballpark.

"No one believed in us, but we believed in ourselves," said
Eckstein, the 5-foot-7 shortstop who was selected Series MVP after
batting .364.

St. Louis (83-78) almost didn't even make it to the postseason.
The Cardinals had a seven-game NL Central lead with 12 to go but
lost eight of nine before recovering to finish 1½ games ahead of
Houston, the defending NL champion.

Minnesota, in 1987, had set the previous low for wins by a
Series winner, going 85-77.

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

A repeat of 1968's dramatic Tigers-Cardinals matchup -- won by
Detroit in seven games -- ended on a cold 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, the
rest by pitchers.

"We didn't play well enough," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
"There's no excuse here. I don't really know what the reasons
were."

Eight of the 22 runs allowed by the Tigers were unearned, the
most by a team since the 1956 New York Yankees against Brooklyn.

"If you don't make the plays, you're going to lose -- whether
you're playing the Yankees or the junior varsity," Detroit closer
Todd Jones said.

Detroit, which had won in three straight Series appearances
since 1940, hit .199, the lowest in a five-game Series since the
1983 Philadelphia Phillies, with the averages of key players
shrinking with the temperature. ALCS MVP Placido Polanco was
0-for-17, Magglio Ordonez 2-for-19 (.105), Craig Monroe 3-for-20
(.150) and Ivan Rodriguez 3-for-19 (.158).

"We just never got the bats going," said Rodriguez, stating
the obvious.

It was the National League's first title 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.

"I have such a respect and affection for Sparky," La Russa
said. "It's such a great honor. He should really have this
alone."

Only seven managers have taken a team from each league to the World Series. If Jim Leyland ('97 Marlins) had won this year, he would have been in La Russa' shoes.

La Russa, who took over as Cardinals manager in 1996, had
yearned for a title in this tradition-rich baseball town.

"I just saw Bob Gibson," he said about a half-hour after the
final out. "When you're around here, especially if you're around
here for a while, I just don't feel you can join the club unless
you can say you won a World Series. Now we can say this group can
join the club."

While the Tigers had fielding problems, 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 had gone ahead on Eckstein's infield single in the
second, with Inge making a diving stop over the bag but throwing
the ball low and wide to first.

"It's the atmosphere that can get you a little tight," Inge
said. "It's the biggest stage in the world for baseball. It can
make some nerves, get people a little jittery."

Casey, who batted a Series-high .529, homered for the second
straight night, but St. Louis came right back to take a 3-2 lead in
the bottom of the fourth as pitcher Justin Verlander threw away a
ball for the second time in two starts. One run scored on the error
and another on Eckstein's grounder.

"I just threw it away. I had the wrong mindset," Verlander
said. "I picked it up and said to myself, 'Don't throw it away,'
instead of just picking it up and throwing it. I got tentative."

Rolen, who led Cardinals' batters at .421, 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 marked the first time since the 1912 Red Sox at Boston's
Fenway Park that a team won the Series at home in a first-year
ballpark.

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 Leyland for a possible Game 6 in Detroit
on Saturday.

Weaver, cast off by the Yankees three years ago after a World
Series flop and dealt to the Cardinals by the Angels in July,
allowed four hits in eight innings. He matched his season high with
nine strikeouts and walked one before Wainwright finished for the
save.

"It's all the belief in yourself, knowing that you're going to
work through it," Weaver said. "Just never say die. Just keep
working."

Verlander gave up three runs -- one earned -- and three hits,
recovering from early control problems to give the Tigers a decent
effort. Throwing up to 100 mph, he walked the bases loaded and tied
a Series record with two wild pitches. But he escaped when
Ronnie Belliard hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Carlos Guillen
just got to in time to make an off-balance throw to first, beating
Belliard by less than a step as Casey scooped the ball on a bounce.

Albert Pujols hit just .200 with two RBI in the Series but
turned in the night's niftiest play, sprawling to snare Polanco's
grounder to first leading off the seventh. Then he made a
one-bounce throw from his back to Weaver covering the base.

"Anytime you make big plays, it changes the momentum of the
game," Weaver said, "and I think that was a big one."


Game notes
The record for unearned runs allowed in the Series is 13,
shared by the 1903 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1909 Tigers. …
Verlander was the first pitcher to lose twice in a five-game Series
since Oakland's Storm Davis in 1988. … Fox's 10.1 average for
four games was a record low, down 9 percent from the 11.1 from last
year's Chicago White Sox sweep of Houston.