10/14/2004 8:59 PM ET
Notes: Kent shrugs off bum ankle
New faces help offense come alive in postseason
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
|Jeff Kent is hitting .231 with a homer in the postseason entering Thursday's game. (Elsa/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS -- The Houston Astros' lineup for Game 2 of the National League Championship Series looked the same as it has for most of the postseason, including second baseman Jeff Kent batting fifth.
Exactly how Kent would feel when it was time to hit the field was another question, and one manager Phil Garner didn't really want to know the answer to.
"Doesn't matter," Garner said with a smile. "I'm not going to ask him, because I know he's going to tell me he's going to play anyway."
Kent, already hobbled after fouling a ball off his left ankle during Game 5 of the Division Series against the Braves on Monday, was dealt a double whammy on Wednesday, when he fouled off another ball in the same spot.
"He's bruised," Garner said. "There's no question, he's bruised. As of right now, he hasn't been on the field, hasn't done anything. But he's in the lineup."
In the eighth inning Wednesday, Garner inserted Adam Everett at shortstop and moved Jose Vizcaino to second. Garner said he made that move partly because he wanted to give Everett some playing time and partly because Kent was in obvious pain.
"Jeff's foot was swollen a little bit last night," Garner said. "He actually feels better today. But last night it was swollen up a little bit, and he was sore."
Offensively speaking: If there is one positive to draw from the Astros' postseason so far, even including their loss on Wednesday in St. Louis, it's that they have been productive at the plate. And it's no secret that lack of offense is what cost them in their previous four trips to the playoffs since 1997.
"It's different team, a different year," said Lance Berkman, who played on the 2001 playoff team. "The teams in the past have nothing to do with our offensive output this year. The breakdown of right-handers and left-handers is different, and we didn't have Morgan Ensberg, Carlos Beltran or Jeff Kent, three huge components to our offense.
"It's like the old argument: Who's better, Babe Ruth or someone from the modern era? You can't compare the past to the present."
What a mess: The rain in St. Louis stopped in plenty of time to start Game 2 of the NLCS on Thursday -- albeit with a slight delay -- but that did not guarantee the field conditions were going to be desirable.
Sitting in the visitors' clubhouse at Busch Stadium waiting for the rain to stop is nothing new to the Astros. They often play here in April during the regular season, and they can count on at least one weather-related issue to delay or cancel a game.
Would the wet condition of the field negatively affect the team?
"Nah. You saw me yesterday in perfect conditions," Lance Berkman said self-deprecatingly, referring to the ball he lost in the lights Wednesday that resulted in a Larry Walker triple.
"I'm not a fan of playing in sloppy weather, where loose footing can affect you," Jeff Bagwell said. "But, both teams play in it."
Berkman referred to himself as a "mudder," a horse that runs well on a sloppy, wet track. He also recalled words of wisdom he received from his old Rice University college coach.
"Like Coach [Wayne] Graham said, whatever the conditions are, that's just how we like it," Berkman said. "Both teams have to play in the exact same conditions."
TV star: Pitching coach Jim Hickey had more focus on him than normal on Wednesday, between addressing reporters postgame about Brandon Backe's performance and agreeing to do an in-game interview with the FOX broadcasters during Game 1 of the NLCS.
Hickey said he wasn't overly concerned that the interview would take place at a time when something riveting would be happening on the field, because the interviews are actually conducted in between innings and aired minutes later when play resumes.
"I told them if things get tense at the time, I might have to pass it along to someone else," Hickey said. "But it was
In addition to doing interviews with managers and coaches during the game, FOX also asks a coach to wear a microphone, and various "Sounds of the Game" sound bites are played throughout the broadcast. That job goes to bench coach John Tamargo.
Hickey and Tamargo took some humorous jabs at each other when asked who likes the media attention more. In Hickey's view, all signs point to Tamargo.
"He stands next to Gar to make sure he gets in all of the TV shots," Hickey said. "If you stand in his spot next to Gar, he gets very upset."
Not true, said Tamargo. In fact, the hunger for TV time lies firmly in Hickey's court.
"You should see him pushing his way in," Tamargo said. "I say, 'Hick, go stand on the other side of him.' He's trying to get on TV so bad."
On the map: Undergraduate enrollment at Springfield College in Massachusetts is only 2,100, but it has produced some pretty successful professionals in the sports world.
Three of the head athletic trainers of the four teams involved in the League Championship Series graduated from Springfield College: Houston's Dave Labossiere, Class of 1974; St. Louis's Barry Weinberg, Class of 1973; and Boston's Jim Row, Class of 1987.
Coincidence? Kind of, considering Weinberg and Labossiere actually received most of their core education in athletic training in graduate school, not undergrad.
"In my day, there wasn't an athletic training program undergrad," Labossiere said.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.