for this game

Pujols, Weaver push Cardinals to brink of World Series

Oct 18, 2006 - 4:00 AM ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Albert Pujols wasn't impressed by Tom Glavine the last time he faced him, and he showed his teammates it wasn't just talk.

Pujols' fourth-inning home run started a comeback and Jeff Weaver continued his remarkable renaissance with six strong innings as the St. Louis Cardinals moved within one win of the World Series with a 4-2 win over Glavine and the New York Mets in Game Five of the National League Championship Series.

The Cardinals took a 3-2 lead in the series and can earn a trip to the Fall Classic with a win on Wednesday night when the NLCS shifts to New York for Game Six and, if necessary, a seventh game on Thursday.

"We all had visions of getting shut out again by Mr. Glavine," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He was working us over. We were sitting on zero and (Pujols' homer) got us going and really perked us up. Give Albert a lot of credit and then the guys who came behind to tie it."

Weaver, a midseason acquisition from Anaheim and the hard-luck loser in Game One, got the better of Glavine this time, allowing two runs and six hits before turning the game over to his bullpen.

"He pitched so well," La Russa said. "To repeat that after what he did in Game One, after they had already seen him. The biggest key to our win was the way he pitched."

Glavine had tossed six scoreless innings against the Cardinals in the series opener, but Pujols dismissed the lefthander's performance, saying it "wasn't good."

So when the Mets scored twice in the fourth to hand Glavine a 2-0 lead on Tuesday night, it was Pujols who ignited the Cardinals' bats in the bottom of the inning with a one-out solo homer that got the sold-out crowd back into the game.

"I just tried to see the ball," Pujols said. "With a guy like (Glavine), he's got good stuff and he doesn't want to give in. You just hope and wait for a mistake that he might make and put a good swing on it and hopefully you get lucky. Obviously, that's what I did."

Glavine quickly unraveled after Pujols' blast, allowing four of the next five batters to reach base, including an RBI single by Ronnie Belliard that tied it at 2-2.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner failed to retire a batter in the fifth, yielding a go-ahead run-scoring double to Preston Wilson before relievers Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano escaped a no-out, bases-loaded jam to keep it close.

"I made a few mistakes tonight and I didn't get away with them," Glavine said. It's the nature of the game. I don't feel like they made all that many adjustments really. I made a mistake to Albert and he hit it. He did what he's good at."

Armed with the lead, Weaver responded in stellar fashion, continuing an amazing turnaround from when he was a dismal 3-11 on July 17.

The 30-year-old righthander won his last three starts of the regular season and has been exceptional in the postseason.

"He mixes it up a little bit," Mets slugger Carlos Delgado said. "A slider, a little bit of a changeup, a fastball. That's what he has to do to get people out. I don't think that he's overpowering, but he was able to get the ball down and throw some pretty good stuff."

Weaver pitched five scoreless innings in beating San Diego in the Division Series and had allowed just one hit through five innings to the Mets in Game One before Carlos Beltran touched him for a crushing two-run homer in a 2-0 defeat.

"I think one advantage of playing a team in a long series like this is the opportunity to pitch twice," Weaver said. "You get a pretty good read off of their approach last time. And more than anything, (I tried) to get ahead of them.

"Once you do that, you can make pitches in zones that you feel you can get them out with, and they are going to have to be aggressive at it and try to put it in play."

Pinch hitter Chris Duncan slammed a solo homer in the sixth off Feliciano to give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead, but the Mets didn't go quietly.

In the eighth, New York put runners on second and third with one out against reliever Josh Kinney on a single by Delgado and David Wright's double into the left field corner.

After Randy Flores retired Shawn Green on a shallow fly to center field, La Russa brought in closer Adam Wainwright and the rookie righthander shut the door, freezing Jose Valentin with a slow curve for a called third strike to end the inning.

"That's my go-to pitch," Wainwright said. "A big situation, I'm in a tight spot, I felt confident in that pitch and I went with it."

Wainwright, who inherited the closer's job when Jason Isringhausen underwent season-ending hip surgery in late September, set down the Mets in order in the ninth for his second save of the postseason.

"It's a dream come true," Wainwright said. "One game away from the World Series, it's something you dream about ever since you were a little kid in the backyard."

The Mets went on top, 2-0, in the fourth when Delgado drew a leadoff walk and Green looped a soft one-out double down the right field line to put runners at second and third.

Valentin plated both runners with a line double to right, a ball that just cleared the glove of a leaping Pujols at first base.

"I think that when I got a double for the first two runs, I thought ... we are just going to keep adding on it," Valentin said. "We are one of those teams that when we score one, it's like everybody just gets in the same motion and we just keep on going. But their offense came back and the next thing, they scored two of them. That's how teams are supposed to do it."

Pujols provided the impetus with his fourth-inning blast, which halved the deficit and seemed to kick-start his teammates. It marked the seventh time in the series that St. Louis has scored in its next at-bat following a Mets' run.

"I think the main thing is when they scored the two runs in the fourth inning, you want to answer back," Pujols said. "That's what we did, I hit that big home run and we ended up tying the game."

After Juan Encarnacion popped up for the second out, Scott Rolen walked and Jim Edmonds and Belliard followed with back-to-back singles to right, with Belliard's hit plating Rolen with the tying run.

Glavine then walked Yadier Molina to load the bases before getting out of the jam by retiring Weaver on a grounder to shortstop. But the long inning seemed to tax the 40-year-old, raising his pitch count to 73, including just 38 for strikes.

The Cardinals didn't let up in the fifth and quickly knocked Glavine out of the game. David Eckstein lofted a leadoff single over the head of shortstop Jose Reyes and Wilson followed by rifling an RBI double up the gap in right-center to put St. Louis ahead, 3-2.

Glavine, who had his postseason scoreless streak end at 16 innings, allowed three runs and seven hits in four-plus frames, walking three and striking out two.

Reigning Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter will oppose New York rookie John Maine on Wednesday in a rematch from Game Two, which was won by St. Louis, 9-6.

Neither pitcher was particularly effective in that contest, with Carpenter giving up five runs and six hits in five innings and Maine lasting just four innings, yielding four runs, two hits and five walks.

"We still have to go to (New York) and play nine innings," Belliard said. "We know we have Carpenter tomorrow, but they're a good team. They have a good hitting team and they're going to play good defense and they have a good bullpen. We have to go out there and play our best."

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