for this game

Cardinals can advance to NLCS; Padres in must-win situation

Oct 7, 2006 - 1:36 PM San Diego at St Louis 4:09 pm EDT National League Division Series Cardinals lead, 2-0

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- The San Diego Padres entered the playoffs with plenty of momentum. But it will not travel with the team to the "Show Me State."

The Padres need to win to extend their season Saturday when they take on the resurgent St. Louis Cardinals, who are one victory away from their third straight trip to the National League Championship Series.

With Games One and Two of the NLDS at home, the Padres managed a total of one run and 10 hits in losing both contests. They were shut down by Chris Carpenter in Tuesday's opener and did not fare any better against Jeff Weaver in Thursday's 2-0 defeat.

The Cardinals' offensive star, as usual, has been Albert Pujols. The NL MVP candidate went 3-for-4 with an RBI single in Game Two and has five hits and three RBI so far in the series.

"Like always, we're coming, take one game at a time, go out there don't think, play one game at a time," Pujols said. "Whatever happens, we go back home. We hopefully finish over there (in St. Louis). But anything can happen."

St. Louis closed the regular season by losing nine of its final 12 games. The Cardinals nearly squandered an 8 1/2-game lead in the NL Central Division with less than two weeks remaining.

By contrast, the Padres ended their campaign with a franchise-record 20 wins in September. But that success has not translated into the postseason as they now have lost a stunning nine consecutive playoff games.

"We've certainly had more an uphill climb, no question," San Diego manager Bruce Bochy. "Our backs are to the wall. And the only thing we can do is go down swinging and hopefully we loosen up here, go to St. Louis and get these bats going a little bit."

San Diego will try and extend its season behind Chris Young (11-5, 3.46 ERA), who will be making his first career postseason start. The 6-10 righthander yielded three runs or fewer in each of his last nine regular-season outings, going 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA.

Young's final start came on September 27, when he held the Cardinals to one run and three hits in seven innings of an eventual 4-2 loss.

St. Louis will counter with Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12), who also did not lose any of his final nine regular-season outings. The veteran righthander absorbed his worst start in that stretch against the Padres, who ripped him for five runs in 3 2/3 innings on September 25.

Suppan is 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA in five career postseason starts. He did not pitch in last year's NLDS, which saw the Cardinals sweep the Padres in three games.

In all, San Diego has dropped each of its eight postseason games against St. Louis.

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