ST. LOUIS -- One of the classic postseason games in Cardinals history - Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series -- may still be best summed up by its moments: The catch. The homer. The curve.There was also Jeff Suppan.Perhaps too often cast as an afterthought in one
ST. LOUIS -- One of the classic postseason games in Cardinals history - Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series -- may still be best summed up by its moments: The catch. The homer. The curve.
There was also Jeff Suppan.
Perhaps too often cast as an afterthought in one of the more thrilling postseason elimination games in recent memory, Suppan's impact that night in New York and throughout the rest of the Cardinals' 2006 championship run remains the indelible mark from his time in St. Louis.
"I think when you look back at the success he had in the postseason of '06, clearly, we aren't where we are without him," said St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, who was an assistant general manager at the time. "To me, the one takeaway I always had with Soup was he always took the ball. He was someone that wanted to pitch. And for those three years [2004-06], he did exactly that for us. But his impact in the 2006 postseason was tremendous."
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He was an unlikely postseason hero on a roster that had two likely future Hall of Famers, two of the best defensive players of their generation and two of the top pitchers in franchise history. But two years after outdueling Roger Clemens to send the Cardinals to their first World Series appearance since '87, Suppan stepped up again.
After pitching the Cardinals to a NL Central title on the penultimate day of the season, Suppan shined in the NLCS. He gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the series by twirling eight shutout innings in Game 3. Suppan punctuated that game with one of his two career home runs.
Five days later, Suppan carried a 1-1 game through seven innings. And while the biggest pitch of the game may have been the one Adam Wainwright threw to Carlos Beltran, a series of sixth-inning pitches from Suppan defined his night. After Scott Rolen committed a costly one-out error, Suppan bailed out the third baseman by retiring Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez with the bases loaded.
"It was really quite remarkable," Mozeliak recalled. "That could have imploded. And it didn't."
In 15 NLCS innings, Suppan surrendered 15 hits and one run. His performance earned him NLCS MVP honors, and he went on to give the Cardinals a quality start in a winning World Series effort.
"Jeff was a big-game pitcher," Wainwright said. "He didn't let the moment overtake him. He was a very smart as far as knowing who he was as a pitcher. He never let the moment get too big."
A pitcher known mostly for his durability and consistency over three seasons in a Cardinals uniform, Suppan was at his best when the stage became grandest. He pitched the Cardinals out of the 2004 NL Division Series with a Game 4 win over the Dodgers. His performance in Game 7 of the NLCS that October helped dispatch Houston.
In nine postseason appearances for the Cardinals, Suppan, now a pitching coach in the Royals' system, posted a 3.00 ERA and averaged more than six innings per start.
"That sort of summarized who he was to us," Mozeliak said. "He always took the ball and gave you a chance. And that's all you could have asked for."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.