World Series Heads to St. Louis All Tied Up
For the first time in the postseason, the St. Louis Cardinals saw more of the old Jeff Weaver than the new.
For a change, it’s his teammates’ turn to pick up the slack. Staff ace Chris Carpenter, who won neither of his starts in a tense seven-game NLCS against the New York Mets, makes his World Series debut in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
After that it’ll be NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan, who has a 1.86 ERA in the postseason, in Game 4.
“We’ve got the horses coming up,” Weaver said. “I feel confident we’re going to shut down this team.”
Weaver, acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in the middle of the season after he was designated for assignment to make room for his brother Jered, has been one of their best pitchers in the postseason. Entering Game 2 he was 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA.
Pitching in the town where he got his major league start in 1999, he might have taken a step backward on a nippy Sunday night. He was lucky to escape after five innings trailing by only three runs in the Tigers’ 3-1 victory that evened the series at one game apiece.
Still, pitching coach Dave Duncan noted that trouble or not, Weaver minimized the damage. Duncan also said that aside from Craig Monroe’s home run and Carlos Guillen’s RBI double in a two-run first, he didn’t think the Tigers made solid contact on many more balls.
“They managed to get some mis-hit balls over the infield and through the infield, and sometimes that happens,” Duncan said. “He threw the ball very good, he had good stuff, pretty good command.
“You don’t mis-hit balls unless they’re balls that are hard to hit.”
Weaver has always given up a lot of home runs. He allowed 34 in 173 innings this season and 35 a year ago while winning 14 games with the Dodgers.
“The only time he gets into trouble, like back in the day here, is when he gets the ball up,” said Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, who caught Weaver in Detroit.
Weaver was in trouble throughout his five innings. But he didn’t consider this a setback and was looking forward to another chance at facing the team he began his career with.
“They were aggressive and swinging early and made it tough all night,” Weaver said. “But it’s a team that can be pitched to and we feel good about our chances.”
This certainly wasn’t the same Weaver, though, that the Cardinals seen lately.
Weaver threw five scoreless innings against San Diego in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs, freezing the Padres with breaking balls.
In the opener of the NL championship series, he pitched well in losing 2-0 to the New York Mets. He then worked six strong innings to win Game 5 in St. Louis.
Pitching against the Tigers in temperatures in the 40s with light rain, Weaver struggled from the start and allowed three runs on nine hits in five innings. It was a bit reminiscent of his 3-10 start with the Angels, which led to the embarrassment of getting cut to make room for his kid brother in the rotation.
Weaver disagreed, though, that he was off his game.
“I felt good,” Weaver said. “Just a lot of balls that bled in. The only pitch I would take back was the cutter that I threw to Monroe, I just missed my location.”
The end result was another depressing World Series memory for Weaver.
In 2003 when he was with the New York Yankees, he surrendered a 12th-inning home run to Florida’s Alex Gonzalez that evened the series at two games apiece. The Marlins went on to defeat the Yankees in six games.
A mitigating factor in that failure: Weaver had been pitching for the second straight game after a 28-day layoff. When he faced the Tigers on Sunday night, he had been on a roll.
Weaver refused to blame the weather.
“The first couple of innings were a little chilly, something to get used to,” Weaver said. “Once you get the adrenaline going, during the course of the game there’s no problems with that.”