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Cards win a matter of reasoning

Cards win a matter of reasoning

ST. LOUIS -- The 2006 World Series was extremely tight, despite the fact it resulted in the most one-sided win for a National League team since the Cincinnati Reds' 1990 sweep of Tony La Russa's Oakland A's.

With the exception of the Cardinals' 7-2 victory in Game 1, every contest concluded with a tying rally a mere few hits away.

When games are such coin-flips and the coin lands on the same side four out of five times, distinct trends are at play. The outcome is no accident. Rather, you can count the reasons on two hands.

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The Cardinals won and the Tigers didn't
because ...

1. The Cardinals carried their big man
Albert Pujols batted .200 in the World Series, and did not dent the RBI column after his two-run homer in Game 1. But St. Louis destroyed the notion that it is tied to Pujols' coattails, as little guys like MVP David Eckstein, Aaron Miles and So Taguchi came up with big plays.

This reason applies to the entire postseason. Pujols, while more productive in the earlier rounds, still wound up with a mere eight RBIs is 16 games, about 50 percent of his career-long regular-season pace.

2. The Tigers did not carry theirs
Magglio Ordonez clammed up in the World Series to the tune of 2-for-19, with zero runs batted in. Although Craig Monroe tried, with home runs in each of the first two games, no one stepped up in the Detroit lineup to bear the load, least of all Ivan Rodriguez (4-for-19, with one RBI).

3. "D" is not for defense
It will be a long time before the Tigers can live down the enduring image they earned in this Series for being bumblers. It wasn't the eight errors, resulting in eight unearned runs, as it was the type of errors. With the exception of third baseman Brandon Inge's wild throw after a masterful stop of David Eckstein's grounder down the line in the second inning of Game 5, all came on routine plays. Little League coaches all over were ordering their boys to turn off the TV.

4. Jeff Weaver again became Jered's big brother
Jered who? Virtually run out of town by his kid brother's emergence with the Angels, Jeff now owns another town after a Game 5 performance to rival that of any historical big name pitcher, from Bob Gibson to Dave Stewart to Jack Morris.

And to do it against Detroit, the first team to give up on him and start his self-finding tour of the Majors ... "You couldn't ask for a better scenario. Just kind of full circle. Against a team that you used to play for, I mean it's just added motivation," Weaver said.

5. Cards put the NL on their shoulders
The concept of AL superiority was downplayed all week. But the chorus had sung it all summer ... the unbeaten All-Star streak, the Interleague domination, the eight consecutive World Series game wins.

You bet Tony La Russa mentioned it in his clubhouse. And while guys like Jim Edmonds may have shrugged off any mission by saying "We're just trying to leave our mark on the World Series," the motivation was there.

6. Jim Leyland's stubbornness
Your No. 1 pitcher, the guy who has invoked the name of Christy Mathewson this postseason, is available on his regular rest of four days. He is available to try to get the Series back to your town, where all the elements against you here -- climate, fans -- can become your allies.

Instead, you start a worn out rookie who, in six starts since Labor Day had been raked for 28 earned runs in 29 2/3 innings. No way, no how, no rationales.

7. R-e-s-p-e-c-t
Brandon Inge tried to portray the Tigers as being disrespected to turn that into motivation. But who came out of the regular season with less respect than the Cardinals, who were down to their last breath before the Houston Astros finally drew theirs?

Instead of proving they didn't belong, the Cardinals proved the value of second lives, and of second seasons, by beating the 95-win Tigers. Their 83 regular-season wins set a new record for a World Series champ, previously held by the 85-win Twins -- who beat the 95-win Cardinals.

8. Tony La Russa follows his gut
Scott Spiezio repeatedly lit up the New York Mets in the NLCS -- and disappeared in the World Series. Instead, La Russa gave more playing time in the outfield to Preston Wilson -- who came through in the clutch a couple of times -- and stuck at third base with Scott Rolen -- who hit .421.

9. Down time takes down Tigers
Since they needed seven games to outlast the Mets in the NLCS, once the Cardinals got hot, they could stay hot. The Tigers, forced to twiddle their thumbs after an ALCS sweep of Oakland, had to play an NBA schedule. Counting Game 4 of the ALCS, Detroit played six games in 13 days.

That's not easy, not even on 80-degree days.

9. The Cardinals are Missouri tough
Eckstein played through a hyper-extended shoulder that hurt so badly, he was scared to swing and miss. Every day, Edmonds visited the needle before visiting the batting cage. Pujols was concerned about his hamstring blowing out at any step.

And Kenny Rogers didn't pitch a must-win game in Detroit because his manager was concerned about the "adverse atmosphere."

10. This time, Chris Carpenter participated
Remember 2004, when the Cardinals won 105 games and were taken out in four straight by the emotionally-charged Boston Red Sox? Some teams are haunted by such lopsided upsets for years.

For St. Louis, the wait was only two years. And once they returned to the dance, they had a healthy Carpenter, an injured bystander in '04, to swing the pendulum. His eight innings of brilliance in Game 3's 5-0 win swung the momentum the Cardinals' way.

Take off a shoe ...

Bonus 11: All that red couldn't go to waste
As the typical Cardinals fan asks, "What else can you do with a red wardrobe but celebrate?"

Tom Singer 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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