Notes: Cards' defense at full strength

Notes: Cards' defense at full strength

SAN DIEGO -- It's no secret that the Cardinals are a better offensive team when they have their full complement of hitters. What's just as critical, though, is that a healthy St. Louis team also catches the ball better than when the club has been racked by injuries.

With David Eckstein at shortstop and Jim Edmonds in center field, the Cardinals look much more like the team that was one of baseball's best defensively in 2004 and 2005.

For the year, the Cards ranked sixth in the NL in defensive efficiency rating, a simple measure of the percentage of balls in play that go for outs. In 2005, they were second in the league, and they ranked at the top in 2004.

"No question they're a different club [with Eckstein and Edmonds]," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy. "They've got their starters out there, guys that played both sides of the ball so well. I'm sure it gave them a sense of confidence to have those guys out there. You're talking about the leadoff hitter, the catalyst, and one of the best center fielders in the game, also a guy that provides a lot of punch for them."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa acknowledged the benefits of having Edmonds in center, but was quick to point out that he was pleased with Eckstein's replacement.

"I'll be careful talking about the infield," he said. "I don't want to disrespect Aaron Miles, he did really an outstanding job for us. And considering he had mostly been a second baseman, to do what he did, he deserves a ton of credit. I'd be careful with anything I said. David has more experience at shortstop, but we did fine with Aaron.

"Our outfield, that was a problem. [Juan] Encarnacion filled in and he did a good enough job and So [Taguchi] and whoever played. But set up right now with Jimmy in the middle, it's outstanding."

Lefty lineup: With the playoffs at hand, La Russa is less inclined to make daily changes based on a left-handed or right-handed opposing starter. As expected, Edmonds found himself in the lineup on Thursday, despite southpaw David Wells starting for San Diego.

Preston Wilson was a direct replacement for Chris Duncan at left field and in the No. 2 spot in the order, while Edmonds batted sixth. Scott Rolen moved up to the No. 4 spot, with Encarnacion fifth.

"I think you need to protect Albert with a right-hander, and Scott's got the most success against Wells," La Russa said.

The manager said he actually ran into Edmonds while Edmonds was having dinner on Wednesday night, allowing him a chance to check on the center fielder's condition in person. Edmonds came through Tuesday's Game 1 all right, despite landing roughly when he dove to try to catch a fly ball.

Quite a contrast: While the Padres can trot out Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader when they have a lead in the ninth, St. Louis features a closer who has all of three career big-league saves. Still, Trevor Hoffman is impressed with what he's seen thus far of Adam Wainwright.

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"You saw the kid go out [Tuesday] and get four outs in a big ballgame," Hoffman said. "He was relatively unknown in a sense he didn't know he was going to be in that situation a month ago. You can have all the chips you want and experience and stuff like that, but it's a matter of getting it done when you get the opportunity."

Still, when asked about Wainwright on Thursday, Hoffman was quick to point out that the rookie is keeping a seat warm for Jason Isringhausen. In the same season that Hoffman broke Lee Smith's MLB career saves record, Isringhausen broke Smith's Cardinals franchise record.

"I'm not too quick about forgetting about Izzy," Hoffman said. "I know he's the guy that helped that ballclub get to the postseason."

Stacking them up: Bochy, meanwhile, clearly took a look at the stats when he set up his lineup for Thursday. Facing a pitcher who struggled mightily against left-handed hitters this season, Bochy stacked his lineup with left-handed batters. Of the eight hitters in his lineup, only one was right-handed -- center fielder Mike Cameron.

Left-handed hitters batted .340 with a .609 slugging percentage against right-hander Jeff Weaver this year.

This date in Cardinals history: On Oct. 5, 1926, the Cardinals played the first home World Series game in franchise history. Jesse Haines pitched a shutout against the mighty Yankees as St. Louis won, 4-0. In addition to quieting a lineup that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Haines hit a two-run homer for the Redbirds.

Coming up: Friday is a workout day for both teams at Busch Stadium. Game 3 is set for Saturday afternoon at Busch, with Jeff Suppan facing Chris Young. The game will start shortly after noon CT.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.