2006 National League Championship Series
|Dates:||October 11 – 19|
|MVP:||Jeff Suppan (St. Louis)|
|TV announcers:||Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Luis Gonzalez|
|Radio announcers:||Dan Shulman and Dave Campbell|
|Umpires:||Tim Welke, Jim Joyce, Jerry Layne, Fieldin Culbreth, Jeff Kellogg, Gary Darling|
|NLDS:||New York Mets over Los Angeles Dodgers (3–0)|
|St. Louis Cardinals over San Diego Padres (3–1)|
|2006 World Series|
The 2006 National League Championship Series (NLCS), the second round of the 2006 National League playoffs, began on October 12 and ended on October 19; it was scheduled to begin on October 11, but was postponed a day because of inclement weather. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the heavily favored New York Mets in 7 games to advance to the 2006 World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
The Cardinals and the Mets took the series to the limit, reaching the 9th inning of Game 7 tied at 1–1. The Cardinals took the lead with Yadier Molina's 2-run home run off Mets reliever Aaron Heilman in the 9th to put his team ahead 3–1. Adam Wainwright would then hold the Mets scoreless in the bottom of the 9th to give St. Louis their 2nd pennant in 3 years and 17th in club history, placing them one behind the New York/San Francisco Giants and the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for most in NL modern history (since 1903). The Cardinals were making their 3rd consecutive appearance in the NLCS; manager Tony La Russa, who led St. Louis to the 2004 pennant and previously won AL titles with the Oakland Athletics from 1988–90, became the first manager in history to win multiple pennants in both leagues.
The Mets, handicapped after season-ending injuries to Pedro Martínez and Orlando 'El Duque' Hernandez, had defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3 games to none in the NL Division Series, while the Cardinals had defeated the San Diego Padres 3 games to 1. The Mets had home-field advantage due to their better record in the regular season (the Mets were 97–65, the Cardinals 83–78). The Mets and Cardinals previously met in the 2000 NLCS, which the Mets won in 5 games. Until 2015, 2006 was only the second time the Mets have qualified for postseason play since 2000.
New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis won the series, 4–3.
|1||October 12†||St. Louis Cardinals – 0, New York Mets – 2||Shea Stadium||2:52||56,311|
|2||October 13†||St. Louis Cardinals – 9, New York Mets – 6||Shea Stadium||3:58||56,349|
|3||October 14||New York Mets – 0, St. Louis Cardinals – 5||Busch Stadium (III)||2:53||47,053|
|4||October 15||New York Mets – 12, St. Louis Cardinals – 5||Busch Stadium (III)||3:31||46,600|
|5||October 17‡||New York Mets – 2, St. Louis Cardinals – 4||Busch Stadium (III)||3:26||46,496|
|6||October 18||St. Louis Cardinals – 2, New York Mets – 4||Shea Stadium||2:56||56,334|
|7||October 19||St. Louis Cardinals – 3, New York Mets – 1||Shea Stadium||3:23||56,357|
†: Game 1 was postponed due to rain on October 11. Game 2 was subsequently pushed back a day as well.
‡: Game 5 was postponed due to rain on October 16.
|WP: Tom Glavine (1–0) LP: Jeff Weaver (0–1) Sv: Billy Wagner (1)
NYM: Carlos Beltrán (1)
On a game pushed back a day by rain, both pitchers pitched magnificently. Tom Glavine earned the win with seven innings of shutout baseball. The only two runs came from a two-run homer by Carlos Beltrán off losing pitcher Jeff Weaver. Weaver pitched 5 2⁄3 shutout innings before giving up a single to Paul Lo Duca and then a home run to Beltrán. Glavine was aided by stellar defense, as the Mets turned two double plays. In the third inning, with runners on first and second, third baseman David Wright caught a line drive off the bat of David Eckstein and threw to second to double up Yadier Molina. In the following inning, Juan Encarnación flied out to shallow center to Beltrán, who threw to first on the run to double up Albert Pujols, who went 0-for-3 with a walk. Left fielder Endy Chávez also made an excellent diving play on a flare hit by Ronnie Belliard. He replaced Cliff Floyd, who left in the second inning when he reaggravated his injured Achilles tendon.
Following the game, Albert Pujols was controversially critical of Glavine's performance, saying that the Cards would have dominated him if they were on their "A" game. His exact words were:
"He wasn't good. He wasn't good at all ... I think we hit the ball hard, we didn't get some breaks. I say he wasn't good at all. We just didn't get some opportunities and that's it.... [He did the] same thing that he always does. Throw a changeup, fastball and that was it."
Pujols' comments drew criticism from fans, talk-show hosts, broadcasters, and even his own manager. Tony La Russa, while maintaining that Pujols made the remarks in the heat of the moment, said "It's not a good statement. Glavine deserves credit."  Tom Glavine, when asked, merely said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. His teammate Billy Wagner, on the other hand, said:
"I know if Albert would have said that about me, I wouldn't have been as veteraned, as seasoned about it ... I probably would have said something back. That's me. Tom is classy all the way ... Tom's done so much. Tom doesn't have to stoop to tell people how good he is ... His numbers speak for themselves. With 290 wins for somebody that has been in the league as long as he has is pretty self-explanatory ...Tommy's stature is much bigger than Pujols'. He's [got] a Hall of Fame induction coming. Albert doesn't. Albert's a great player, but you just don't know about tomorrow. In this clubhouse, Tommy is the epitome of class and great leadership. He leads by what he does in the field. He doesn't lead by what he says in the media." 
|WP: Josh Kinney (1–0) LP: Billy Wagner (0–1)
STL: Jim Edmonds (1), So Taguchi (1)
NYM: Carlos Delgado 2 (2)
In an exciting back-and-forth game, the Cardinals erased three deficits en route to a 9–6 victory. In the first inning, Carlos Delgado hit a three-run home run and added another home run in the fifth, both off the Cardinals' ace, Chris Carpenter. Yadier Molina then drove in two runs with a double in the second inning. José Reyes and Paul Lo Duca added an RBI each, but Scott Spiezio, who started the game at third base in place of an injured Scott Rolen, had two hits and three RBIs, including a two-run triple on an 0–2 pitch in the seventh inning to tie the game at six. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Julio Franco pinch-hit for Mets pitcher Aaron Heilman, which made obvious that lefty closer Billy Wagner was coming into the game in the top of the ninth inning. Left fielder Chris Duncan, a lefty hitter, was due to lead off the top of the ninth. So, Duncan was pulled in favor of So Taguchi, a right-handed-hitting outfielder who was a better defensive option than Duncan. Taguchi led off the top of the ninth with a solo homer off Mets closer Billy Wagner to put the Cardinals ahead, 7–6. St. Louis would go on to win the game, 9–6.
|WP: Jeff Suppan (1–0) LP: Steve Trachsel (0–1)
STL: Jeff Suppan (1)
Back in St. Louis for the next three games, St. Louis starter Jeff Suppan pitched eight scoreless innings and hit a home run himself, as the Cardinals defeated the Mets, 5–0. Scott Spiezio hit a two-run triple (his second two-run triple in as many games) in the bottom of the first inning to put the Cardinals ahead, 2–0. St. Louis would add three more runs in the second to finish the scoring for the game. Mets reliever Darren Oliver pitched six shutout innings, after Mets starter Steve Trachsel only lasted one inning before being pulled after getting hit by a line drive off the bat of Preston Wilson, leaving with a bruised thigh. After the game, the Mets had not scored in twelve consecutive innings, making it fourteen before scoring in the third inning of Game 4.
|WP: Óliver Pérez (1–0) LP: Brad Thompson (0–1)
NYM: Carlos Beltrán 2 (3), David Wright (1), Carlos Delgado (3)
STL: David Eckstein (1), Jim Edmonds (2), Yadier Molina (1)
Game 4 was a pivotal game for the Mets, who were faced with a two-games-to-one deficit. They sent Óliver Pérez, a young lefty picked up at the trade deadline from the Pittsburgh Pirates, to face the Cardinals' own young starter, Anthony Reyes. In a game that would see an NLCS-tying record seven home runs, the Cardinals grabbed an early lead in the bottom of the second on a Yadier Molina single. It seemed to be a repeat of the night before, but in the top of the third the Mets hit two home runs, one on Carlos Beltrán's second of the series and sixth against the Cardinals in NLCS play, and another on David Wright's first hit of the series and first homer of the playoffs. The lead was short lived, as Juan Encarnación hit a two-out RBI triple to tie the game. The game would stay tied until the top of the fifth inning until Paul Lo Duca reached on an error by Cardinals second baseman Ronnie Belliard, Beltrán managed a walk, and Carlos Delgado scored an opposite-field three-run homer, his third of the series, to make it 5–2. David Eckstein pulled the Cards back in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff homer. But, in the top of the sixth, the Mets extended the lead. José Reyes and Paul Lo Duca hit back-to-back singles, and Beltrán walked to load the bases. Delgado then hit a ground-rule double to drive in two runs, and then Wright walked. Shawn Green singled to drive in one run and José Valentín, who, at that point, was only 3-for-20 in the playoffs, hit a bases-clearing double down the left field line to make it 11–3. The Cardinals got solo home runs from Edmonds and Molina to make it an 11–5 game, but Mets manager Willie Randolph then pulled starter Pérez and bought in submarine pitcher Chad Bradford to try and limit the damage. Beltrán would tie the NLCS record of seven home runs with another in the seventh en route to a final score of 12–5. Beltrán also tied Babe Ruth for the all-time postseason record of home runs against the Cardinals hitting a total of seven home runs. He hit four home runs against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 National League Championship Series while playing for the Houston Astros.
|WP: Jeff Weaver (1–1) LP: Tom Glavine (1–1) Sv: Adam Wainwright (1)
STL: Albert Pujols (1), Chris Duncan (1)
After Game 5 was pushed back a day by rain, giving their starter now four days' normal rest instead of three days' short rest, the New York Mets sought a 3–2 lead in the NLCS. However, pitcher Tom Glavine could not stifle the Cardinals' offense. After the Mets jumped out to a 2–0 lead, the next half-inning Albert Pujols struck for his first home run and RBI of the series to cut the Mets' lead in half. After tying the score in the bottom of fourth inning and later taking the lead in the fifth by virtue of a Preston Wilson double, the Cardinals increased their lead thanks to a pinch-hit solo blast by rookie Chris Duncan that made the final score 4–2, Cardinals. The win moved the Cardinals within one win of their second National League pennant in three years.
|WP: John Maine (1–0) LP: Chris Carpenter (0–1)
NYM: José Reyes (1)
Facing elimination, the Mets' sent John Maine to start Game 6. He allowed no runs in 5 1⁄3 innings, earning the win for the Mets. José Reyes hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first, giving the Mets a lead that would never be relinquished. Reyes became the first Met to lead off with a home run in the first inning of a postseason game since Mets' former outfielder Lenny Dykstra in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. The Cardinals stranded several runners against Maine. In the top of the first inning, with runners on second and third and one out, Maine struck out Jim Edmonds. After hitting Juan Encarnación with a pitch to load the bases, Scott Rolen flew out. In the top of the third, with a runner on second and nobody out, Maine struck out Scott Spiezio and intentionally walked Albert Pujols. Edmonds then flew out and Maine struck out Encarnación to finish the job. Shawn Green hit an RBI single in the fourth and Paul Lo Duca added two more with an RBI hit in the seventh. Billy Wagner came on in the ninth and gave up a two-RBI double to So Taguchi before retiring David Eckstein to end the game.
|WP: Randy Flores (1–0) LP: Aaron Heilman (0–1) Sv: Adam Wainwright (2)
STL: Yadier Molina (2)
In the decisive Game 7, the Mets sent Game 4 winner Óliver Pérez to the mound against Jeff Suppan. The Mets jumped out to an early 1–0 lead when David Wright drove in Carlos Beltrán in the first with a bloop single into right field. The Cardinals tied the game in the second when Ronnie Belliard hit into a squeeze play that scored Jim Edmonds from third. In the fifth, with runners on first and second and two gone, Albert Pujols came up to the plate. Even with Chad Bradford warming up in the bullpen, Willie Randolph decided to stay with Pérez. He got Pujols to pop out. Pérez ran into some more trouble in the sixth with a runner on and one out, when Scott Rolen hit a long fly ball to left field to create one of greatest defensive plays in postseason history.
The ball cleared the fence, but Endy Chávez amazingly brought it back by snow-coning the ball, jumping from the edge of the warning track to retrieve what looked to be an easy home run. He then threw the ball into first base quickly to double off Jim Edmonds, who had rounded second on his way to third, to end the inning. He received two curtain calls from the Shea crowd. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth, José Valentín and Chávez failed to get the go-ahead run in.
With the score 1–1 in the top of the ninth, Yadier Molina, with a man on-base, hit a deep fly off Aaron Heilman in the same general direction as the one Rolen hit in the sixth. This ball was hit too high for Chávez to catch, and it gave the Cardinals a 3–1 lead, with only three outs in the bottom of the ninth separating them from a pennant.
However, the Mets would not go quietly. Rookie closer Adam Wainwright yielded singles to Valentín and Chávez to lead off the ninth. After getting a strikeout and a flyout, Wainwright walked Paul Lo Duca to bring up Carlos Beltrán with the bases loaded. Down 0–2 to the rookie Wainwright, Beltrán looked at a called strike three, a curveball on the outside corner at the knees, to end the game.
This was the last playoff game ever played in Shea Stadium and the last postseason appearance for the Mets until 2015, six years after Citi Field opened. It is also the second time that a visiting team won a postseason series at Shea (the other being the Yankees' victory over the Mets in the 2000 World Series).
|St. Louis Cardinals||2||7||3||2||2||3||2||0||7||28||56||4|
|New York Mets||5||1||2||3||4||9||3||0||0||27||54||4|
|Total attendance: 365,500 Average attendance: 52,214|
The Cardinals would win the World Series by defeating the heavily favored Detroit Tigers. With 83 wins, the Cardinals set a record for the worst regular season win-loss total for any championship team. They would win another World Series in 2011 and another National League pennant in 2013 (where they lost to the Boston Red Sox).
As for the Mets, many commentators and fans had predicted that 2006 would be the beginning of a dynasty. They had dominated the National League in 2006, winning 97 games when no one else won more than 88, and they had a deep and young core, with Beltran, Wright, and Reyes being under 30 (the latter two being under 25). Supporting those three were Hall of Fame caliber players such as Carlos Delgado, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martínez, and Billy Wagner.
Nonetheless, 2006 stands as the only achievement for this group. They collapsed in 2007 to miss the post-season by one game and also missed the postseason by one game again in 2008, and they finished below .500 in the next six consecutive seasons (2009–2014). Manager Willie Randolph was fired in the middle of the 2008 season, Delgado played his last game in 2009, General Manager Omar Minaya was fired after 2010, and Beltran and Reyes left in 2011. Today, David Wright is the only remnant from this 2006 team on the Mets.
In 2015, the Mets would return to the NLCS, where they defeated the Cardinals' arch-rival, the Chicago Cubs, in a four-game sweep that saw the Mets not trail once in the entire series. They would go on to lose to the Kansas City Royals in the 2015 World Series in five games.
- "2006 NLCS Game 1 - St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "2006 NLCS Game 2 - St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "2006 NLCS Game 3 - New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "2006 NLCS Game 4 - New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "2006 NLCS Game 5 - New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "2006 NLCS Game 6 - St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "2006 NLCS Game 7 - St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- 2006 NLCS box scores and play-by-play at Retrosheet
- 2006 NLCS statistics at Baseball Reference
- "Cardinals win unlikely pennant", ESPN.com
- "Seventh Heaven", Sports Illustrated