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Cards ensure history repeats in Game 1

Cards ensure history repeats

ST. LOUIS -- The atmopshere was a lot more Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith than fellow Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, for obvious reasons. But one of Yogi's catchphrases fit right in.

It really was a case of déjà vu all over again at Busch Stadium in the postseason opener for 2005, which was good news for the Cardinals and bad news for their visitors from the National League West.

A year ago minus a day, the Dodgers were the visiting NL West champions, and the raucous Red Sea of Cardinals fans were there in force to cheer on the NL Central champs. The fans gave their heroes a string of curtain calls as the home team cruised to victory, one that was as deflating for the visiting team as it was invigorating for the Cards and their fans.

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On Tuesday, it was the Padres falling victim to the team with all the current stars on the roster at the place with all the ghosts of postseasons past and rabid fans of the present.

The 8-5 score was pretty close to last year's Game 1 final of 8-3 against the Dodgers, although the ending was considerably tighter this time than it was a year ago. We're not talking a Game 1 clone here, but pretty close to it.

Really, it was the whole atmosphere -- the Red Sea, the curtain calls, the long balls, the seeming invincibility of the Cardinals -- that brought on the sense of déjà vu. The volume was turned down a notch from a year ago, perhaps, but it had to be an eerily familiar scene to anyone who saw Game 1 a year ago.

In the end, it was the Cardinals soaking in the momentum of a big Game 1 victory.

"We all know the postseason is a lot of fun," said Reggie Sanders, whose grand slam in the fifth was the big knock that drew a curtain call. "It can make you or break you. The fans cheering and being excited about what happened, it just adds to the drama."

Now the Padres just have to hope that it's not a double dose of déjà vu in the works here, for the Dodgers wound up losing Game 2 a year ago by the same 8-3 score before bowing out in four games.

Of course, it wasn't really déjà vu for the Padres on Tuesday. They weren't here a year ago, and losing Game 1 in a five-game series is a whole lot better than not being here at all, that's for sure.

But in a way, there was that certain sense for the Padres that they'd seen this all before.

Case in point: In the top half of the third, the Padres hit into their second of three rally-killing double plays early in the game when Mark Loretta hit the ball sharply right at third baseman Abraham Nunez. A similar fate met the Padres in the second, and a double play finished the fourth as well.

"We had some opportunities there early. What you want to do is create opportunities. We were just missing the hit," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said, invoking a line of dialogue he'd uttered innumerable times during the regular season.

On the other hand, the way Jake Peavy performed -- first tripping into a two-run wild pitch in the third, then giving up Sanders' grand slam in the fifth, all the while feeling a rib cage injury only he knew about -- didn't exactly fit with the way things went for the Padres or Peavy this season. Actually, Peavy's pitching wasn't that far off his 2005 standard, but the results were.

All things considered, Game 1 flew in the face of the old adage that you throw out the regular season when you reach the postseason. The Cardinals showed a little bit of why they won 100 games, and the Padres showed a little bit of why they won 82.

The Cardinals certainly did a lot of things the way they did in the regular season -- they got excellent starting pitching, played strong defense and with a healthy middle of the lineup, scored runs.

"You saw a lot of how we played this year," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

And there's no question they also drew from their postseason past, including that Game 1 victory a year ago.

It might not have been exactly the same thing, but it was close enough for the Cardinals.

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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