Suppan earns MVP of series with second superb outing

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Cardinals starter steadied his team with another clutch Game 7 performance.

NEW YORK -- Pulsing ballpark, pouring rain, nothing shook Jeff Suppan.

Because when it came to the postseason, once again Suppan was super.

Suppan is the biggest reason why the St. Louis Cardinals are going to the World Series, pitching two gems against the New York Mets that made him the MVP of the NL Championship Series.

His Game 7 effort Thursday night -- seven-plus innings, two hits, one run -- steadied the Cardinals and helped them win 3-1 to take the pennant.

"I'll tell you what, there's always peaks and valleys," Suppan said. "I think we were able today -- the whole year -- to make them plains. And I think that was the key: We never gave up, we always believed in ourselves, and I'm just proud to be a part of the St. Louis Cardinals tonight."

Suppan put the Cardinals ahead in the series with a win in Game 3, pitching eight shutout innings and also hitting a home run.

Not bad for a pitcher with a career record of 106-101. Then again, he's often at his best in big games.

Suppan is 2-1 with an ERA of 1.69 in five NLCS starts. In 2004, he outpitched Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the NLCS to lead St. Louis over Houston.

Suppan pitched a pair of clinching games in 2004, in fact, to help the Cardinals make it to their first World Series in 17 years.

"I can't say enough about the job he's done all postseason," Cardinals reliever Adam Wainwright said. "He's been a warrior for us."

It's an unlikely tale of dominance. Suppan was 13 games below .500 for his career before signing a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in 2004, after being left off the Red Sox' division-series roster and left on the bench in the ALCS in 2003.

He was saddled with a 5.83 ERA at the All-Star break this year before dialing it in. Suppan's 2.34 ERA the rest of the way was third-best in the majors.

Suppan saved his best pitching for the toughest spot.

It was 1-1 in the sixth when third baseman Scott Rolen's throwing error let the Mets load the bases with one out. Suppan struck out Jose Valentin and got Endy Chavez -- who'd made a great catch in the top half -- on a lazy fly ball to center.

Suppan kept it close until the Cardinals' slumbering offense finally did something. Yadier Molina's two-run, go-ahead homer against Aaron Heilman in the ninth was St. Louis' first hit since the first inning.

The Cardinals advanced despite finishing the NLCS in a 1-for-21 slump with runners in scoring position. They scored their other run on two singles and Ronnie Belliard's safety squeeze bunt off Oliver Perez in the second.

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