Astros center fielder Carlos Beltran is putting up downright Bonds-like numbers this postseason -- eight homers in nine games, a 1.538 slugging percentage in the NLCS. The question for the St. Louis Cardinals is: Do you treat Beltran the way you would Barry Bonds from now on?

When the question was put to Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa, he bristled at the suggestion.

"Well, it depends on what you think the 'Bonds treatment' is," La Russa said. "Our Bonds treatment was, we challenged him. We don't like telling our [pitchers] they're not good enough to get hitters out."

Pitching around Beltran is complicated because he bats second in the Astros' order, ahead of Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent. When the Cardinals pitched around Beltran in the first inning Sunday, walking him on four pitches, Bagwell followed with an RBI double.

"You have some very tough outs, a lot of [run] producers behind him," La Russa said. "You have to pitch him tough, and pitch him careful."

Tantrum Aired

La Russa was critical of the fact that pitcher Julian Tavarez's dugout meltdown following the seventh inning yesterday, which was captured by TV cameras, was played on the Minute Maid Park video screen. Tavarez was seen storming off the mound and throwing equipment in the dugout.

"The Astros are as classy an organization as anything I've seen in the National League," he said. "But even Sinatra clears his throat, and I think that was below their standards."

Olerud Ailing

First baseman John Olerud was out of the Yankees' lineup for Game 4 because of a bruised left instep that he suffered during the sixth inning of the team's 19-8 win on Saturday. X-rays taken on the foot were negative.

"John is not very mobile," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "He's sore. I have not seen the replay, but people who saw the replay said it looked like the bat hit his instep, the left foot. I guess if it's not feeling better in the next day or so, they may do more testing."

Tony Clark started at first for New York last night.

Weak Pitching

It is reasonable to wonder how the Astros are still playing in the third week of October with a starting rotation that includes right-handers Brandon Backe -- who will start Game 5 for them tonight -- and Pete Munro. Between them, they owned 19 career major league wins entering the postseason.

However, it was not supposed to be this way. The Astros would be boasting one of the best rotations in the playoffs were it not for injuries to right-hander Wade Miller and left-hander Andy Pettitte.

Miller was lost for the season in June with a shoulder injury; he was 7-7 with a 3.35 ERA at the time. Pettitte tried to pitch through an elbow injury for much of the season, but ultimately had season-ending surgery in August. In between three stints on the disabled list, he went 6-4 with a 3.90 ERA..

"At one point, [Pettitte] was really battling to get through each start," Astros Manager Phil Garner said. "And we were struggling in our bullpen. He comes to me and says he'd be able to come out of the bullpen in between starts if I need him. So he's just genuinely a winner, genuinely a champion."

Bonds Talk

Both NL managers addressed questions about new allegations that Giants slugger Bonds used steroids during the 2003 season. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds's personal trainer admitted in a secretly recorded conversation that Bonds used "undetectable" designer steroids that year.

"I don't know if Bonds used steroids or not," Garner said. "I don't know if I trust [media reports] just yet. I'd like to have all the information before I would make a judgment."

Sheinin reported from Houston, Arangure reported from Boston.

Yankees first baseman John Olerud, here hitting a two-run homer in Game 2 of the ALCS, didn't start last night because of a bruised left instep.