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<img src=http://www.kwmu.org/pic/speakersm.gif border=0> Eckstein's four hits get Cards to within a game of World Series crown

David Eckstein hits an RBI double against the Tigers in the eighth inning Thursday. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
David Eckstein hits an RBI double against the Tigers in the eighth inning Thursday. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)


St. Louis, MO – The St. Louis Cardinals are one win from being World Series champions after beating the Detroit Tigers last (Thu.) night 5-4.

Shortstop David Eckstein had four hits and knocked in two runs, including what would be the game winner in the eighth.

The Tigers had a 3-2 lead in the sixth, but two errors allowed the Redbirds to score twice - including a throwing error by Tigers relief pitcher Fernando Rodney. It was the fourth error by a Tigers pitcher in four games.

Detroit's Justin Verlander is scheduled to pitch tonight against the Cards' Jeff Weaver.

And there's a bit of history here: The Cardinals and Tigers last met in the World Series in 1968 and the Redbirds had a 3-1 lead then, as well, but ended up losing the series.

"I just needed to find some holes," Eckstein said of his hits. "It's nice to actually have a little luck involved." But St. Louis manager Tony La Russa says it's much more than that: "He's the toughest guy I've ever seen in a uniform."

After Curtis Granderson slipped in center trying for an earlier ball hit by Eckstein, rekindling memories of Curt Flood in the 1968 Series between these teams, St. Louis took a 3-1 lead to move within one win of its first championship in 24 years.

After a rainout Wednesday night, only the second World Series washout in 20 years, showers were expected again Thursday. But heavy rains stayed away on a 53-degree night and much of the back-and-forth game was played in a light mist that obscured the Gateway Arch beyond center field.

The mist got heavier in the sixth, though, and the Tigers began to struggle with the elements.

With St. Louis trailing 3-2 in the seventh, Eckstein hit a drive to right-center that Curt Granderson appeared to have in his sights before he slipped to the slick turf, kicking up a huge divot. The ball fell for an easy double.

"I went to plant my feet and they just went out from under me," Granderson said. "It was just a freak thing. If I stand up, I catch it easily.

"It wasn't just wet," he added. "It was wet and soft."

Pinch-hitter So Taguchi dropped down a sacrifice bunt, and reliever Fernando Rodney rushed an off-balance throw over the head of Placido Polanco covering at first base, allowing Eckstein to score the tying run.

"I didn't position myself the right way to pick up the ball and make the perfect throw," Rodney said. "I also didn't want to toss it very strong because the fielder is trying to get to the base. It just went badly out of my hand."

It was the fourth error by a Tigers pitcher in four games, a record for one pitching staff in the World Series. "Obviously, it was a little bit of a freak inning," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "It's not our best fielding in the world, but that's baseball."

After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols and two strikeouts, Preston Wilson singled to left against Rodney to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead.

But Ivan Rodriguez opened the eighth with a double and Brandon Inge tied it with a double off rookie closer Adam Wainwright, who avoided further damage by striking out pinch-hitter Alexis Gomez and Granderson.

That set the stage for St. Louis' final rally. Yadier Molina drew a leadoff walk from Joel Zumaya before Aaron Miles beat out a potential double-play ball. Miles moved up when strike three to Juan Encarnacion got past Rodriguez for a wild pitch, and Eckstein hit a drive to left-center.

Monroe sprinted to his left and laid out with a desperate dive, but the ball ticked off the tip of his glove. The left fielder lay prone on the grass as Miles scored the go-ahead run.

"Facing Zumaya, you want to make sure you don't try to overswing," Eckstein said. "I got a fastball and was able to get on top just enough, just barely out of the reach of Craig Monroe, who almost made one heck of a catch."

Wainwright set down Detroit in order in the ninth to end the game.

To hear a report on the game from NPRs Tom Goldman, click here.