Suppan an easy choice for NLCS MVP

Suppan an easy choice for MVP

NEW YORK -- When Yadier Molina's homer cleared the left-field fence in the ninth inning on Thursday night at Shea Stadium to win the pennant for the St. Louis Cardinals, it became obvious that Jeff Suppan would be a clear choice as Most Valuable Player of the just-concluded National League Championship Series.

Suppan had a series for the ages, giving up one run on five hits in the 15 innings he pitched over the course of two starts against the now-defeated New York Mets, whose championship hopes went down in seven tough games.

"He's my MVP right now, he's my MVP," said Molina, the catcher who has been back there for Suppan all season in the close confines of the champagne-drenched Cardinals clubhouse. "He did a great job in both games. To have him do what he did and then do what I did ... it's the best moment of my whole life."

Suppan got it started on Thursday as gray turned to drizzle at the end of a series that had already survived a pair of rainouts. And after the right-hander walked Carlos Beltran to open the eighth inning and left the game, Molina put it over the top as the Cardinal won, 3-1.

Suppan wasn't the winning pitcher in Game 7 -- left-hander Randy Flores, who replaced him, was -- but the designation hardly makes a difference.

Suppan won Game 3 last Saturday night in St. Louis, tossing eight innings of three-hit ball. He started the night on Thursday giving up a first-inning run on Beltran's double, a walk to Carlos Delgado and David Wright's RBI single. The Mets wouldn't have another hit until the ninth inning. They had those two hits in all off Suppan, who walked five and pitched out of tight jams in the fourth and sixth. But that was that.

"Basically, when you go out in any game like this, all you can do is the best you can," Suppan said afterward. "With that approach, you're able to go pitch-by-pitch, and that was really what I did. Yadi did a tremendous job keeping me in check. After that, you just try to keep rolling and rolling out there, forgetting what happened in the past."

The past has been good to Suppan. Two years ago in the NLCS against the Astros, Suppan out-pitched Roger Clemens in Game 7 and sent the Cardinals back to the World Series for the first time since 1987. This time, he matched Oliver Perez zero for zero and left the game with the score tied at 1. Molina's two-run homer came off Mets reliever Aaron Heilman and shut down the crowd of 56,357.

In the bedlam of the postgame, a soaking Jim Edmonds climbed atop a table with two baseballs dangling from his right hand. As champagne sprayed, seemingly at random, he called for quiet by yelling: "Game balls, game balls!"

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Miraculously, the group suddenly simmered down.

"Yadi, Yadi," Edmonds screamed, and his teammates began chanting the same in unison.

"Supp, Supp," Edmonds continued, and the Cardinals began following the center fielder.

Then the party continued.


NLCS MVPs
Cardinals right-hander Jeff Suppan dominated the Mets in the National League Championship Series, going 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA in two starts.
Year
Player
Team
Position
2006Jeff SuppanSt. LouisP
2005Roy OswaltHoustonP
2004Albert PujolsSt. Louis1B
2003Ivan RodriguezFloridaC
2002Benito SantiagoSan FranciscoC
2001Craig CounsellArizona2B
2000Mike HamptonNew YorkP
1999Eddie PerezAtlantaC
1998Sterling HitchcockSan DiegoP
1997Livan HernandezFloridaP
1996Javy LopezAtlantaC
1995Mike DevereauxAtlantaOF
1994Not held----
1993Curt SchillingPhiladelphiaP
1992John SmoltzAtlantaP
1991Steve AveryAtlantaP
1990Rob Dibble/Randy MyersCincinnatiP
1989Will ClarkSan Francisco1B
1988Orel HershiserLos AngelesP
1987Jeffrey LeonardSan FranciscoOF
1986Mike ScottHoustonP
1985Ozzie SmithSt. LouisSS
1984Steve GarveySan Diego1B
1983Gary MatthewsPhiladelphiaOF
1982Darrell PorterSt. LouisC
1981Burt HootonLos AngelesP
1980Manny TrilloPhiladelphia2B
1979Willie StargellPittsburgh1B
1978Steve GarveyLos Angeles1B
1977Dusty BakerLos AngelesOF

"The Mets are definitely a tremendous team all the way around," Suppan said. "We got here because we focused on what we had to focus on, and we were able to persevere."

The Mets certainly had their chances. They had runners on first and third with two out in the fourth when Suppan walked Delgado and hit Jose Valentin. But Endy Chavez popped out to center.

And the game probably pivoted in the sixth, beginning with the catch Chavez made leaping over the left-field fence to steal a two-run homer from Scott Rolen. He then had the poise to fire the ball into the infield to double off Edmonds at first base, thus ending that portion of the inning.

When the Mets came to bat, they loaded the bases, the key play coming after Delgado walked with one out: a two-base throwing error by Rolen on what appeared to be an easy roller to third. Rolen tossed the ball into the stands behind first base, automatically moving the runners to second and third, and then Suppan walked Shawn Green intentionally to load the bases.

"Yeah, that was one of the real key turning points of the game because Supp kept his composure, made great pitches and got out of it," manager Tony La Russa said. "The game could have gotten away right there. You have a combination of Chavez's catch, they capitalize [on the Rolen error], and with their bullpen ... but it didn't happen."

It didn't happen because Valentin struck out swinging and Chavez hit the first pitch again lazily to Edmonds in center field.

"That's the game right there," said closer Adam Wainwright, who had the game in his hands, too, when he whiffed Beltran looking on three pitches to end it with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. "They had a ton of momentum going into that sixth inning. If Supp lets up a couple of runs, we probably lose that game."

But he didn't, and they didn't. And now the Cardinals go back to the World Series again with a chance to win it all for the first time since 1982.

Molina was the hero and Suppan was the MVP. And the chanting in the clubhouse -- "Yadi, Yadi, Supp, Supp" -- resonated long into the night.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.