St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Mark Mulder was struck on the left biceps by a hard-hit line drive off the bat of San Diego's Joe Randa Thursday afternoon, but remained in the game and picked up the victory in the Cardinals' 6-2 win.

"At first, I was looking for the ball," Mulder said. "And then I realized how bad it hurt. It got a little tighter each inning. . . . But once the inning started, the adrenaline took over."

Mulder kept the arm loose by stretching and applying heat between innings, and benefited from the Cardinals' four double plays. The Padres had hits in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh all erased by double plays.

"I'm not going to get that worried about giving up a hit," Mulder said, "because you give up a hit, the next pitch, you get a double play." . . .

The Cardinals scored the third-most runs in the National League this season, and most people tend to think of Albert Pujols's power as the main reason. But in their victory Thursday, they used one squeeze play and two successful hit-and-runs to generate offense.

"We have so many ways to go and attack you, and we got a lot of bombers," shortstop David Eckstein said. "But also, when we have to, we can play small ball and find ways to manufacture [runs]."

Unusually Bad Start

The five runs Roger Clemens allowed on Thursday were one shy of matching his career high in a Division Series. In 2000, Clemens allowed six earned runs to the Oakland A's.

"Clearly he wasn't the Rocket that we've been seeing," Astros Manager Phil Garner said. "He's fine. He feels fine. But I think maybe the sticky part of the mound got to him a little bit. It just seemed he never really got in a groove and never really got comfortable."

Clemens said he wasn't much affected by the conditions.

"I was dealing with it," he said. "I didn't have a problem with that. They warned us during batting practice it was probably going to mist." . . .

Brandon Backe, the scheduled starter for Game 4 on Sunday, threw a scoreless sixth inning.

"Well he hasn't pitched in a while," Garner said. "I wanted to get him on the mound to let him pitch." . . .

Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox got very acquainted with first-base umpire Jeff Nelson. Cox came out and argued three of Nelson's calls at first base.

"They were tough calls," Cox said. "I thought a couple of them should have gone our way. They were so close, either way he calls them I think he's going to be right."

Svrluga reported from St. Louis, Arangure from Atlanta.