SAN DIEGO -- Right fielder Brian Jordan, whose bat and glove helped the St. Louis Cardinals complete a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres in their National League Division Series on Saturday night, will now turn that in-your-face football mentality on the Atlanta Braves.
The National League Championship Series will begin Wednesday in Atlanta, where Jordan once performed for the National Football League's Falcons under Jerry Glanville, whom he compares to St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa.
"Tony's very intense and wants to control every aspect of the game, a lot like Jerry did," Jordan, a Milford Mill alumnus, said. "It took some getting used to after having Joe Torre and Mike Jorgensen as managers, who had more of a laid-back style. Tony brought in a focus and intensity. He made us think baseball every time we hit the field."
A Central Division title and sweep of the Padres underscores how far the reconstructed Cardinals have come in only a year under LaRussa.
But whether that focus and intensity can help a team that was last in its division and had the National League's second-worst record last season take the next step is uncertain.
The Cardinals were 4-8 against Atlanta this season and an ominous 0-6 at Busch Stadium, site of games 3 and 4 and, if necessary, Game 5.
The Braves have won seven consecutive postseason games at home and 14 of their last 17, and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers during which the vaunted John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine gave up only two earned runs and 14 hits in 22 2/3 innings.
The Cardinals held the Padres to a .238 batting average and 10 runs in three games, registering 28 strikeouts, but each of LaRussa's starters in that series has had significant problems with Atlanta.
Todd Stottlemyre was 0-3 against the Braves this year.
Andy Benes has a 4-10 career record against them.
Donovan Osborne has a career ERA of almost five (4.95) against them.
Alan Benes, who gave up nine runs in 12 innings of two starts against Atlanta while producing a 13-10 record as a rookie, will probably become the No. 4 starter in the best-of-seven championship series.
Denny Neagle is expected to become the fourth starter for the Braves, who restricted St. Louis to a .227 average in their 12 games.
Two key questions:
Can St. Louis pitch well enough to win a series of low-scoring games?
Can Rick Honeycutt and Dennis Eckersley, both 42 and coming off a series in which they appeared in every game, sustain that resilience over a longer series?
One edge for the Cardinals is speed. They were successful on 15 of 18 steal attempts against the Braves and will have their stolen-base leader, Ray Lankford, back in center field.
Lankford missed Games 1 and 2 of the San Diego series because of a torn rotator cuff, but he entered Game 3 as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning and later singled and walked, scoring a run that gave the Cardinals a temporary lead of 5-4 en route to a 7-5 victory.
Pub Date: 10/07/96