Cardinals takes Series lead against error-prone Tigers

Oct 25, 2006 - 6:43 AM BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) - Joel Zumaya regularly throws 100 miles per hour, but it was his softest toss of the season that fouled up the Detroit Tigers.

A throwing error by Zumaya in the seventh inning allowed two insurance runs to score as the St. Louis Cardinals gained the upper hand in the World Series with a 5-0 victory over the Tigers in Game Three.

With Chris Carpenter turning in a dominating pitching performance to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the Series, Zumaya's miscue may not have made a difference.

Still, at the time of Zumaya's errant throw, it was a 2-0 ballgame. The gaffe not only doubled the lead to give the Cardinals some breathing room, but it allowed manager Tony La Russa the luxury of not having to use closer Adam Wainright in the ninth.

"Our defense gave them two runs in the seventh," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "When you make mistakes like that and you only get two or three hits, it can make you look really bad."

The flame-throwing Zumaya, who had a brilliant rookie season for Detroit, came on in the seventh inning for his first appearance since Game One of the American League Championship Series due to a wrist injury.

The rust showed as he walked the first two batters, David Eckstein and Preston Wilson, to bring MVP candidate Albert Pujols to the plate for a classic confrontation between one of the game's top hitters and its hardest thrower.

Zumaya challenged Pujols and got what he and the Tigers thought they wanted: a comebacker to the mound. But the 21-year-old rookie threw well behind third baseman Brandon Inge and into left field, allowing both runners to scamper home for a 4-0 lead.

"I grabbed the ball and I saw Brandon (Inge) running to third base," Zumaya said. "I didn't even bother looking at second, I just grabbed the ball and threw it and threw it behind (Eckstein) and the ball went down to third."

In electing not to throw to second base, Zumaya was bucking history in trying to turn the 1-5-3 double play - no team has done it in the World Series since the New York Giants in 1923.

It also continued a disturbing trend for Detroit in the Fall Classic. With Kenny Rogers and the dirt of Game Two behind them, the Tigers now have to be concerned with the slop. The team has committed five errors in the first three games - three by pitchers.

"Hopefully we can get back to playing error-free ball," Tigers first baseman Sean Casey said. "It's just like hitting. When you don't get hits, they come in bunches and sometimes when you're throwing it around, that comes in bunches, too. Hopefully those bunches are over with."

The play has hardly been reminiscent of the team that ran off seven consecutive wins in dispatching the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics en route to the World Series.

"Sometimes when you don't hit, things snowball and it carries over into the field," Casey said. "Hopefully we can get back on track tomorrow."

The Tigers will turn to righthander Jeremy Bonderman, who will turn 24 on Saturday, to even the series in Wednesday's Game Four.

Bonderman was the starting pitcher for the clinching wins against the Yankees and Athletics, posting a win and a no-decision.

"I pitched two (postseason) games, so I mean the pressure of ... what's going on, you know how you're going to feel going out there," Bonderman said. "Just go out and pitch your game and kind of let you calm down a little bit."

St. Louis will counter with Jeff Suppan, who is coming off two of the best performances of his career with back-to-back brilliant outings against the Mets in the NLCS that earned him MVP honors in the series.

The 31-year-old righthander allowed one run and two hits in seven-plus innings of Game Seven and pitched eight scoreless innings, yielding two hits, in Game Three.

"This guy's been such nails for us," La Russa said. "His two 16-win years for us, and the second half this year we were really struggling for wins. He's come through so big. But I've got people that I know in the Cardinal organization that have been around 30, 40 years, that compare that performance in Game Seven with what any Cardinal pitcher has ever done.

"I don't think you can give him enough credit."

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