On the 20th anniversary of their last World Series victory, the favored Mets came in with home-field advantage. The Cardinals were hoping for their second pennant in three years, after edging out Houston in a tight NL Central race.
The NLCS was scheduled to start on Oct. 11, but it was postponed a day, officially due to steady rain in New York. The conditions actually made for a convenient reason to wait, though, due to a pall over Shea Stadium. Cory Lidle, who had just pitched for the Yankees in the ALDS, died hours before Game 1 of the NLCS was scheduled to start, when the light aircraft he was piloting struck an Upper East Side high-rise in New York. All thoughts at Shea were with Lidle and his family.
The Cardinals and the Mets began their series the next night. Tom Glavine started for the Mets and pitched seven scoreless innings, combining with two relievers for a 2-0 shutout. Billy Wagner got the save, but it was a different story in the ninth one night later, when So Taguchi, off the bench as a late replacement in left field, ripped the ninth pitch he saw from Wagner over the wall in left to snap a 6-6 tie. St. Louis salvaged a split with that 9-6 win and the series stayed tight until Game 7 back at Shea.
Jeff Suppan started for the Cardinals and continued to build his case for eventual NLCS MVP honors (homering in Game 3), handcuffing the Mets over seven innings to match Oliver Perez in a 1-1 duel. The score stayed that way in the top of the sixth, when Jim Edmonds walked and then Scott Rolen launched a probable two-run homer to left. Endy Chavez had other plans, running back to the wall and timing his jump perfectly so that his right elbow went above the wall and he reached past the fence to snag the ball. Chavez then threw it back in to double-up Edmonds. "The Catch" would go into Mets lore as one of the best defensive plays in the team's history.
It might have become even more legendary, however, had the Mets won. Yadier Molina broke the tie with a two-run homer off Aaron Heilman in the top of the ninth, and with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the inning, rookie closer Adam Wainwright froze Carlos Beltran with an 0-2 breaking ball that was called for strike three and a Cardinals pennant. For the Mets, it was the last postseason game to be played at Shea Stadium.
Meanwhile, St. Louis would become the first team since the 1923 Yankees to win the World Series in the same season it opened a new ballpark.
Path to the NLCS
NLDS: St. Louis over San Diego (3 games to 1); New York over Los Angeles (3 games to 0)
Managers: Tony La Russa, STL; Willie Randolph, NYM
MVP: Jeff Suppan