Cards’ Rolen dispels doubt about hitting

Third baseman has three hits, including home run in Game 1
Sunday, October 22, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:15 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

DETROIT — Scott Rolen sure gave Tony La Russa something to talk about.

Shut out during the 2004 World Series, Rolen delivered three hard hits in Game 1 Saturday night.

The All-Star third baseman hit a home run his first time up and later doubled. He also ran over Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-2 victory.

“Scott came around like a freight train,” La Russa said.

Not bad for someone who doesn’t seem to be on speaking terms with his manager.

Rolen wasn’t happy with getting benched by La Russa for a game in the NL championship series and the two stubborn personalities appeared to give each other the silent treatment.

But the NLCS tension didn’t translate into any trouble on the field at Comerica Park.

“Mentally, I had a few distractions in the series,” Rolen said.

After getting robbed of a home run by New York Mets left fielder Endy Chavez in Game 7 of the NLCS, Rolen launched a solo drive into the left-field seats off Tigers rookie Justin Verlander.

That tied it at 1 and certainly took a huge load off his shoulders, and a banged-up one, at that.

Two years ago, Rolen went 0-for-15 as the Cardinals got swept by Boston in the World Series. It was a bitter disappointment for a player who had played so well for so long.

“When you have the aspiration as a little kid of playing in the World Series, throwing the ball up and hitting it, you at least sneak one hit in there in your backyard,” Rolen said then.

The Cardinals led 5-1 in the sixth when Rolen doubled, putting runners on second and third.

Juan Encarnacion followed with a grounder that hopped up and handcuffed Inge. He made a wild throw home and Rolen also tried to score.

As Rolen rounded third, he banged into Inge, who was standing in foul ground. Rolen tumbled onto his shoulder, got up and headed home.

Even though the return throw to the plate beat him, Rolen was ruled safe when umpire Randy Marsh called obstruction.

In the past, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Rolen has usually come up hurt in collisions.

In Game 2 of the 2002 division series, he ran into Diamondbacks shortstop Alex Cintron while running the bases and missed the rest of the postseason with a shoulder injury.

Entering the World Series, Rolen was 6-for-32 in the postseason with two doubles.

La Russa sat him in Game 2 of the NLCS, believing Rolen’s at-bats showed a physical problem. Rolen has been in there ever since and before the NLCS finale, La Russa changed his mind, saying it had been a defect in his swing.

Rolen doubled and scored in the ninth inning of Game 6 against Billy Wagner in a belated rally. Then he singled and scored on Yadier Molina’s two-run, go-ahead home run in the ninth off Aaron Heilman in Game 7.

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