Cardinals defeat Padres
3 games to 0
|Game||Date||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|1||Oct. 1||STL 3||SD 1|
|2||Oct. 3||STL 5||SD 4|
|3||Oct. 5||STL 7||SD 5|
Managers: La Russa, Tony, STL; Bochy, Bruce, SD
Path to the NLDS: St. Louis (88-74) won the NL Central by six games; San Diego (91-71) won the NL West by one game.
While Joe Torre was starting a long and successful run as the Yankees' manager, in the year following his dismissal by the Cardinals, the new Redbirds skipper, Tony La Russa, was starting a special run of his own. Having already managed the White Sox and A's to postseason appearances, La Russa guided the Cardinals to a division title and a quick sweep of Tony Gwynn and the NL West champion Padres, who were in the playoffs for the first time since the 1984 World Series. Bruce Bochy was in his second year as San Diego's manager, marking the postseason managerial debut of a career that, up the coast in San Francisco, ultimately would earn him potential Hall of Fame status, along with his Cardinals counterpart.
The 1996 NLDS marked the first appearance in the postseason for the Cardinals since they lost to the Twins in seven games in the 1987 World Series. It was also one last shot at postseason glory for 41-year-old Ozzie Smith, the Hall of Fame-bound shortstop in his 19th and final Major League season.
While Smith was a backup to a young Royce Clayton at that point, another future Hall of Famer was emerging to play a key role for St. Louis: Dennis Eckersley. La Russa brought along his closer who -- with one especially notable exception against Kirk Gibson in 1988 -- had typically been money in past postseasons with Oakland.
Eckersley saved all three games for St. Louis, and Ron Gant, who led the Cardinals with 30 homers during the regular season, knocked out another one in the NLDS. Each game was close, and Rickey Henderson, yet another former Oakland postseason force, hit a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth in Game 3 for San Diego to put the tying run at the plate. But Eckersley closed the door, and the Cardinals advanced to face the defending world champion Braves.
Rick Honeycutt and Mike Gallego also were among the former A's reunited in St. Louis with La Russa and his pitching coach Dave Duncan for this postseason, and the following summer, another would join them: Mark McGwire.