Heading home, Cardinals feel good

Heading home, Cardinals feel good

DETROIT -- The Cardinals finished Sunday night's 3-1 Game 2 loss to the Tigers with three stranded baserunners. In a best-of-seven world in which there's almost always a bright side, this was one of several reasons for the smiles on the Cards' faces.

The Redbirds left Comerica Park with a split thanks to their Game 1 victory. Even though Kenny Rogers left them scoreless with two hits through eight innings, they felt they hit balls hard off him.

In the ninth, they scored on Jim Edmonds' two-out double and had fans shaking, for more reasons than the chilly and damp evening, until Tigers closer Todd Jones forced Yadier Molina's game-ending grounder to short.

So the Cards enter Tuesday night's Game 3 with some offensive confidence -- they scored seven runs in the opener and, yes, have to look past the one run and four hits on Sunday night.

They also have ace Chris Carpenter throwing on Tuesday, 2006 postseason magic man Jeff Suppan starting Game 4 and Game 1 standout Anthony Reyes taking the Busch Stadium mound for Game 5.

But if the other games are close, Sunday's ninth inning could turn into a positive for the Cards.

"It's nice to see a lot of pitches from certain guys, so that you can have a better read later on in the series," shortstop David Eckstein said. "That's when you can hopefully take advantage of it."

The obligatory talk of home cooking, sleeping in one's own bed and friendly fans always flows when a team emerges from the first leg of a 2-3-2 series with a split. There was plenty of that.

"It's 1-1, so now you just need to win three out of five, so that's how you go about it if it goes that long," first baseman Albert Pujols said. "The thing is they had their best pitcher, and he beat us today. But we're going to put that in the past, and we've got a good pitcher going for us in St. Louis."

But there was quite a bit of substance to the talk.

Having a good look at Jones was arguably the most positive development on Sunday. Jones retired the first two batters, but gave up a Scott Rolen single, committed an error on Juan Encarnacion's bouncer, yielded Edmonds' double and hit Preston Wilson to load the bases.

That was 15 pitches, which could be invaluable as hitters try to familiarize themselves with a pitcher over a week's time.

The Cardinals also can reference the 21 pitches Jones threw against them on June 23, when he gave up a home run to Pujols in the Tigers' 10-6 victory, and the 10 pitches Jones threw while earning a save against them two games later.

Wilson, a teammate of Jones in 2003 with the Rockies, also hoped for a carryover effect on Jones' psyche, although, in fairness, Jones has made a career of such eventful saves and has displayed enough confidence to earn 263 regular-season saves.

"We had their closer on the ropes," Wilson said. "We were really one swing away from tying it up and possibly going ahead."

Also, the offense feels it is in good shape.

The numbers say domination from Rogers, who has 23 consecutive scoreless postseason innings and can return for Game 6. But Eckstein, Pujols and Wilson had hard-hit balls -- Pujols and Wilson drove their balls deep to the outfield.

Couple that with Game 1, when the Cardinals got home runs from Rolen and Pujols, and half of the their eight hits went for extra bases, and the belief is St. Louis can score. Coming into the Fall Classic, experts gave the Tigers the advantage in the pitching department.

"We feel confident," Eckstein said. "When you put up a zero through eight innings against Kenny, you think he dominated you. He did a great job, but guys did take good at-bats. That's they key in these situations. Over the long haul, it's going to pay off."

The biggest reason for confidence could be the pitching, starting with Carpenter, who went 8-4 with a 1.81 ERA in 17 home starts during the regular season. His ERA was nearly three runs higher on the road.

Carpenter is 2-1 with a 3.70 ERA in four postseason starts this year. The lone loss was at Shea Stadium to the Mets in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

"I've answered that question about 10 times this postseason, but I think I'm just as confident on the road as I am at home," Carpenter said.

But with three games at home, the Cardinals have a chance not to have to talk about the road again.

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