Cardinals team trainer Barry Weinberg assessed
that the ball hit Mulder's muscle and not a joint, allowing him to escape
serious injury. Still, Mulder was in pain, and there was question as to how
long he could last.
"The way I saw it get hit, I thought maybe another out, an inning or two, but
I didn't expect him to get to the seventh," La Russa said.
Mulder didn't just last into the seventh. He seemingly got better after the
injury. The southpaw retired 12 of the next 16 batters he faced. In a
postgame press conference, Mulder said his bicep looked like a golf ball had
been lodged in it.
"I was kind of happy [when Mulder got hit]," shortstop David Eckstein said.
"It calmed him down. I think his sinker started to work a lot better and he
was able to hit his zone. He wasn't muscling pitches up, his sinker started
working and he did such a fantastic job. I know it was killing him, but he's
a tough guy."
Mulder loaded the bases by hitting the next batter, Xavier Nady, but struck
out Ben Johnson and got pitcher Pedro Astacio to ground out, leaving
the bases loaded and keeping the Padres from scoring.
"I couldn't overthrow," Mulder said, acknowledging Eckstein's theory might
be true. "There is so much adrenaline, but I was just trying to stay calm and
make pitches, even the first inning I got three ground balls. It really
didn't affect me that much once the inning started and I started making
At times this season, Mulder has been streaky. He had put together a nice
stretch between August and September in which he pitched at least seven innings in six consecutive
games. During that time he compiled a 3-0
record with a 1.31 ERA.
Mulder dropped off in his last two regular-season starts, leaving some question as to how he would perform in his first
National League postseason start. Against Milwaukee on Sept. 24, he gave up
seven runs in 1 2/3 innings. He then pitched just four innings -- despite no
earned runs -- against Cincinnati on Sept. 30, and walked seven batters.
"It's the focus," said Mulder, whose postseason ERA is over a 1 1/2 runs
lower than his career ERA. "I know when I am out there in the playoffs, it's
a different game. That's why I think there are so many low-scoring games in
the playoffs. You need to step it up."
A true rating of Mulder's performance can be determined by the amount of
ground-ball outs he gets. On Thursday that number was 17, and he was aided
by four double-play balls.
"I like using my defense," Mulder said. "I'm not afraid to give up the hit
because you make one good pitch [to the next batter] and you get a double
play. That's part of my game in a way, I'm trying to get a double play."
Mulder laid to rest one other concern about his ability to carry his team
through the playoffs. In 11 daytime starts, Mulder was 2-5 with a 6.86 ERA.
Thursday's 3 p.m. CT start proved that those numbers are nothing more than
"I'm sure you guys will still keep talking about it," Mulder joked. "It's
fun to put in the paper, I guess."