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Monday, October 17

Note: David Schoenfield and Eric Neel were second guessing Tony La Russa's decision to leave a tiring Chris Carpenter in to face and pitch to Lance Berkman in the seventh inning ... but, well, you know what happened a few minutes later. Here is the live transmission of their discussion during the ninth inning ...

David: Notice how it is suddenly getting quiet ... (said immediately after ball two to Jim Edmonds).

David: These are fans who KNOW the pain of defeat ... (said after ball three to Edmonds).

Eric: Ohmygod ... Pujols ... (said as Pujols digs in).

Eric: Yikes!

David: He destroyed that ... holy ... 600 feet!!! (Said in moment of excited exaggeration, perhaps.)

Eric: Insane.

Eric: Beat the crap out of it!!!

David: Brenly called it -- don't throw Albert a fastball.

Eric: Looked like a flat slider to me.

More playoff coverage
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Playoff theories: What really wins in the postseason

David: Yeah, you're right ... wow ... man, I can't imagine being a Houston fan right now.

Eric: So we're headed for a big Bagwell pinch-hit moment here?

David: You have to send him up there, and you can't count on Izzy, that's for sure.

Eric: That was one sweet Pujolsian bit of majesty right there, friend.

Eric: Lidge curled up like a baby.

David: Don't forget ... Eckstein singles on 1-2 pitch.

Eric: Eck is a magic man, I swear.

Eric: Vizcaino? (Pinch-hitting for Eric Bruntlett.)

David: Yeah, why not Bagwell? Gotta give him a chance to poke one out over that short porch.

Eric: That homer reminds me of '86 in Anaheim; David Henderson and such.

David: Good call. And remember -- the Angels actually scored a run to tie it in the bottom of the ninth, before the Red Sox finally won it in 11. And then the next two as well. It's a gut-buster. Man, Astros fans have had more gut-busters than perhaps any franchise, even including the Red Sox.

David: I think this game officially raises this postseason so far from a C to a B- ... with room to grow to a higher grade.

Eric: And now they go back to Busch, where the crowd will be out of its head ... and you hate to trot out cliches like "momentum" and such, but there is a psychic toll that comes with a game like this. The Astros players will say they don't feel it, that they will turn the page, and I believe they will, but man, this is the moment in this series when the Astros history comes into play, when it starts to feel like the club is battling not only the Cardinals but also the franchise's demons. I know that's silly. I know there's nothing to it. I also know the Angels in '86 went to Boston and gacked up their tickets to the Series. Of course, all that said, the Astros do have one thing neither the Angels nor the Cardinals can claim, and that's Roy Oswalt on the hill to start Game 6.

David: I don't even know what to say right now. My fingers are still shaking, struggling to type or think clearly, and I'm not even an Astros fan. And while you may be throwing Roy Oswalt out there at me -- and you didn't even mention that he mowed the Cardinals down on five hits and just one run (on a homer by guess who) back in Game 2, or that he's the only pitcher in baseball to win 20 games each of the past two seasons, or that he's got that Mississippi mud running through his veins and probably won't be rattled one tiny bit, even with every baseball fan from Arkansas to North Dakota saying a few prayers over their Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith baseball cards -- well, let me tell you that Astros fans know the truth. They know they've been here in 1980 and 1986 and nearly every year in the late '90s, and they know they were up 3 games to 2 heading back to St. Louis last year and that the Cards won that one 6-4 in 12 innings, but the 'Stros still had Roger Clemens ready for Game 7, and they know that if Oswalt somehow loses Game 6 -- and don't forget that Mr. Mulder isn't exactly easy pickin's out there -- that they have Clemens ready once again to go in Game 7.

So let me just say that Astros fans are damn scared right now, and there's no other pleasant way to state it. That there was a reason that Minute Maid started going quiet after those two balls to Edmonds. That Astros fans know they only lost one game all year in which they led going into the ninth. Before Mr. Pujols, that is. And they know, in fact, that maybe, just maybe, Cardinals fans are a little better off right now.

Eric: Here's an interesting thing that happened with Lidge and Pujols. Lidge stuck with the slider. He's got a tremendous fastball, but he didn't go with it. Pujols' postgame interview was like, "Yeah, it was a slider; that's his pitch." He was waiting on it. All he needed was for one to flatten out and hang just a bit.



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