Edmonds rises to occasion for Cards

Edmonds rises to occasion in postseason

SAN DIEGO -- A few weeks ago, Jim Edmonds couldn't even play with his kids. Now he's playing -- and playing well, if one game is any indication -- on baseball's main stage.

Edmonds brushed off head and foot injuries and went 2-for-4 on Tuesday as his Cardinals took a crucial 1-0 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series. More importantly, he played all nine innings in center field, at least partially erasing one of the Cardinals' more troubling question marks entering the playoffs.

"I really wasn't worried about it too much," said Edmonds, who seemed to be alone in that camp entering the series.

"This is the playoffs, and it's time for guys to go out there and play," he said. "You play hurt your whole career, and this is the time to go out there and play."

Edmonds is among a group of high-profile players afflicted this season by post-concussion syndrome, a maddeningly mysterious after-effect of some head injuries. It causes dizziness, headaches and a general sense of "fogginess," as another victim, Milwaukee third baseman Corey Koskie, put it last month.

Koskie didn't play after suffering a concussion on a seemingly innocuous play in the field on July 5, and remains a question mark for next season. Former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny couldn't play after May 31 for the Giants, and his career is now in doubt.

Edmonds was first removed from a game on Aug. 15 with symptoms and did not play at all from Aug. 26 to Sept. 25, when he returned to hit a dramatic three-run, pinch-hit home run. During the layoff, he could not travel with the team, and even simple activities were a challenge.

He was limited to 15 at-bats in September and was further slowed over recent days by what has been referred to as an injury similar to "turf toe." Edmonds had a cortisone shot before the team traveled from St. Louis on Monday. He also has a sore shoulder, and said over the weekend that he expects to have minor offseason surgery to "clean up" the joint.

On Tuesday, he put the injuries behind him and played.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said the day before that he would have to have a talk with Edmonds before penciling his name into the Game 1 lineup. Edmonds said that conversation never happened.

"There was no decision," Edmonds said. "There was never a doubt."

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After Albert Pujols put St. Louis on the board with a two-run home run off Padres starter Jake Peavy in the fourth inning, Edmonds singled and eventually scored. He batted again in the fifth with two on and two outs, and delivered an RBI single for a 4-0 Cardinals lead. They eventually won the game behind Chris Carpenter, 5-1.

The effort lifted Edmonds' career division series batting average to .347 (25-for-72). He has seven home runs in those 18 games with 16 runs scored and 16 RBIs, and is tied with Atlanta's Chipper Jones with a NL Division Series record 14 extra-base hits.

"That's fine, but I don't care if he's 0-for-4 or 3-for-4," Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen said. "That's an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder out there. That saves runs."

Ditto for Padres manager Bruce Bochy, who also pointed to the importance of a healthy Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein (oblique).

"Having [Edmonds] back in the lineup, that's huge for them," Bochy said. "He's a tremendous center fielder. He's a great hitter. They are back to full strength with their center fielder and shortstop back."

But now there may be new worries. Edmonds made a diving stab for Russell Branyan's one-out triple in the seventh inning, and was seen shaking his head during a pitching change minutes later. Asked how he felt, Edmonds only mumbled, "all right."

"It was a little rough," he said later, asked specifically about that play. "I didn't really slide on that grass too well. The grass is a little different than it's been in the past. But it's all part of the game."

Will he be available for Game 2, when Jeff Weaver and the Cardinals face David Wells and the Padres? Edmonds hit .156 against left-handers this season, but has a career .314 regular season average (11-for-35) against Wells with three home runs and 18 RBIs.

"We're certainly going to have to worry about it on Thursday," La Russa said.

Both teams had voluntary workouts scheduled Wednesday. The break comes at a great time for the Cardinals, who slipped into the postseason after nearly losing the NL Central division lead over the final two weeks.

"We've been playing pretty beat up for the last few weeks," said Edmonds, who skipped the workout to rest and visit with family in Southern California. "It will be nice to give some guys a good day to relax with no pressure, no worrying about the pennant race. It's going to be a good day for us, no doubt."

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