"Sanders killed us," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy.
Sanders had set a Major League record with eight RBIs in the first two games of a postseason series. He came into this season with 13 postseason RBIs in 56 games. The previous record for RBIs in an NLDS was nine, set by Houston's Carlos Beltran last year. John Valentin of Boston holds the American League Division Series record of 12, set in 1999.
"That's sort of what you look for," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said of Sanders' production. "You get a hot hitter or two, a hot pitcher or two, you swing the games. He was big in each game. I don't think he had a meaningless RBI. There was a couple times, I remember the day he hit the ball to the right-field wall, he hit the ball hard for outs.
"He really lit it up for us. He was the guy that provided the margin where it wasn't quite as scary. I think Reggie, you know, he fits in. One of the things we believe about our club is that we have a bunch of guys that are prime-timers, they're not afraid to take big at-bats. He's one of them."
But it was the team accomplishment that had Sanders spraying bubbly, and he knows something about teams, having played for seven in the last eight years and appearing in the postseason six times. And he's a free agent again after this season.
"We've fought so hard to get here, I want to continue to enjoy it," Sanders said.
Sanders entered the series producing runs, having at least one RBI in each of the Cards' last six regular-season games, and home runs in three of the last four. He drove in 54 runs during the regular season, being limited to 93 games by a fractured leg suffered in an outfield collision with center fielder Jim Edmonds on July 15.
A former Padre, Sanders said the Cardinals took advantage of their familiarity with San Diego starting pitcher Woody Williams, a former St. Louis teammate.
"Woody doesn't back down," he said. "We figured he'd come after us and be aggressive and he proved to be. We sort of figured out his kind of game plan and we capitalized in key situations.
"This team is so good at knowing how to keep the pressure on opposing teams. With our lineup, you can't relax, because the next guy down the line can deliver as well."
This is Sanders' fifth postseason appearance in the last six years. He finished this three-game series 4-for-12 with three extra-base hits after going 4-for-10 with three extra-base hits against San Diego during the regular season.
Every time Sanders delivered an RBI hit in the series, MVP candidate Albert Pujols was on base. Pujols hit .556 and reached base in 10 of his 13 plate appearances.
"He makes our whole lineup better," said Sanders. "He doesn't have to hit home runs to do that. He takes his walks and gives the rest of us opportunities to drive in runs."