This series marked the first time two Central Division clubs met in a postseason series, and it would happen again a year later, when the White Sox and Astros met in the World Series.
St. Louis came in as the runaway NL Central champion, winning 105 games for the first time since its 1944 title. With a pennant and a World Series title, there would be just cause to declare this the greatest team in the Cardinals' rich history; it was that good. But the Cardinals lost Chris Carpenter (15-5) during a September start, and the question was whether or not they could keep winning without him.
All seven games in this NLCS were won by the home team, which, of course, was a good thing for the club with the home-field advantage: St. Louis.
Native Texans Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte had left the Yankees on a pact to try to win a title together with their local Astros. Not only had Clemens postponed his planned retirement, but he also won his seventh Cy Young Award after posting an 18-4 record. Pettitte's season was shortened due to arm surgery, so he was not available for this postseason run.
In Game 4 at Minute Maid Park, Carlos Beltran tied records for most homers in a single postseason (eight) and most consecutive postseason games with a homer (five).
Jeff Kent's three-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5 provided all the scoring, giving Houston a 3-2 series lead heading back to St. Louis.
While Albert Pujols continued to make a case for his NLCS MVP Award, homering in Game 6, it was Jim Edmonds who came up with the clutch performances that sent St. Louis to the World Series. And it all happened as a quiet hum compared to the national noise caused by Boston's improbable comeback from a 3-0 deficit that was happening over on the American League side.
After Jeff Bagwell had tied Game 6 of the NLCS on an RBI single in the top of the ninth, Edmonds smashed the two-run walk-off homer in the 12th to tie the series. In the second inning of Game 7, Edmonds made an incredible diving catch in center field while running with his back to the plate, stopping a key Astros threat. The Cardinals kept the game close enough to beat Clemens. Pujols' RBI double tied it in the sixth, and Scott Rolen followed with a two-run homer put them ahead to stay.
St. Louis won its first pennant in 17 years, ending a dramatic series that would be reprised the following October in the same setting, but with a different result. Next, the Cardinals would face Boston in a rematch of the 1945 World Series that St. Louis won in seven games. Unfortunately for the Redbirds, the opponent this time was going to be a Mac Truck of destiny in a Red Sox club that had just done the impossible and was ready to run over whatever NL club happened to be standing in its way.
Path to the NLCS
NLDS: St. Louis over Los Angeles (3 games to 1); Houston over Atlanta (3 games to 2)
Managers: Tony La Russa, STL; Phil Garner, HOU
MVP: Albert Pujols