An Oct. 25 Sports article incorrectly said that the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs. The Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Published 11/2/04)
There had been no trio in baseball as feared as the middle of the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup. Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds drowned even the most capable pitching staffs. They had thumped the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros in reaching the World Series. They had been as reliable as the foundation of the Gateway Arch.
But they have hardly produced through the first two games of the World Series. For the second consecutive game, the trio failed to deliver a rally, is just 4 for 23 in the series and has just one RBI. With runners on base, the trio is 1 for 13.
"I felt I had four good at-bats today, but didn't get anything out of it," Rolen said.
As the Cardinals lost Game 2 of the World Series, 6-2, on Sunday, the logical question is what has happened? None of the threesome has yet to flirt with a home run. During the regular season, the threesome combined for 122 home runs and 358 RBI. In the National League Championship Series, Pujols was named most valuable player after hitting .500 (14 for 28) with four home runs. He seemed to break out of a one-game slide with three hits on Sunday, but his two teammates have not. The trio entered the series with accolades. They have exited Fenway Park as goats. Their lack of production has helped put St. Louis in a 0-2 series hole.
The Cardinals had an opportunity to jump on Boston starting pitcher Curt Schilling in the first inning. The hobbled Schilling, pitching with sutures in his ailing right ankle, lacked command of his fastball in the first and was relying simply on his splitter. Pujols doubled with two outs, his first hit of the World Series. Rolen ended the inning with a stinging line drive to third base.
"To get no hits out of the swings he had is unfair," Edmonds said of Rolen.
Pujols led off the fourth with his second double of the game, but Rolen flied out to right field and Edmonds struck out swinging on one of Schilling's splitters. Pujols did, however, manage to score on an error by Bill Mueller.
With their hopes dwindling and the Cardinals trailing by five runs, Edgar Renteria walked to start the eighth inning against Boston reliever Mike Timlin. Pujols singled with one out to put men on first and third for Rolen. The third baseman hit a sacrifice fly for the trio's first RBI of the series. In that situation though, the fly out was exactly what Boston wanted. With two outs in the inning, Boston brought in closer Keith Foulke to face Edmonds. Edmonds quickly fell behind 1-2 and eventually struck out on a 2-2 pitch.
"I'm frustrated," Edmonds said. "I haven't had many good at-bats."
Most puzzling is Rolen's slump. He has yet to get his first hit of the World Series. Prior to the series, Schilling had said Rolen was perhaps well on his way to becoming the best third baseman in the history of the game. That designation seems unfair at this point.
Rolen and Edmonds said perhaps their hitting troubles could be attributed to Fenway Park.
"No, I don't like hitting here," Rolen said. "It's not set up well for me."