ST. LOUIS -- Unlike the division series, there's no mystery who's starting Game 1 of the NLCS for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Darryl Kile, a 20-game winner for the first time in his career, could get three starts in the best-of-seven series against the New York Mets. Kile was set to go on three days' rest if the division series went to a Game 5 and he could go on three days' rest in Games 4 and 7.
"The formula you use with (Bob) Gibson and those other ones, it means it's possible he can pitch 4 and it's possible he can pitch 7," manager Tony La Russa said. "You want the option, and physically he's capable of it."
Kile, who threw seven innings in Game 2 of the Cardinals' first-round sweep of the Braves, said he's not doing anything special to gear up for short duty.
"I really don't think like that," he said. "All I know is I've been given a job to do on Wednesday and I'm going to try to do it the best I can.
"When Tony says it's time for me to go out there again, I'll try to be ready to go."
Kile goes into the championship series opener well-rested for perhaps the last time in the postseason. In Game 1, he'll be working on five days' rest. He was the Game 2 starter in the division series behind rookie Rick Ankiel because he was the only pitcher La Russa would consider using on three days' rest, and that was the only way the Cardinals could take advantage of it.
"He was going to do it in Game 5 if we had gotten there," La Russa said. "He threw on the side yesterday (Sunday) and felt great. The type of year he's had and his experience, it's just a plus we have."
Ankiel, who became the first player in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in a single inning in the division series opener, will go in Game 2. Andy Benes (12-9), who didn't pitch in the first round, will start in Game 3 and Pat Hentgen (15-12), who also was not used, is the probable starter for Game 5.
"I was asking Tony if Pat and I were even on the roster the first series," Benes joked. "I'm well-rested, very well-rested."
Garrett Stephenson (16-9), the No. 2 winner on the team, is not part of the equation. He left Game 3 with two outs in the fourth and is out for the season with an elbow injury.
Team physician Dr. George Paletta said the injury will not require surgery, adding that Stephenson was just worn out after throwing a career-high 200 1-3 innings.
"If this was May, we'd shut him down for six weeks and then let him start throwing again," Paletta said. "He's never thrown this many innings. He's at a place he's never been before."
La Russa was undecided whether to replace Stephenson with a position player, probably outfielder-pinch hitter Thomas Howard, or reliever Alan Benes. La Russa said he likely would go with the extra bat.
Even though the Cardinals have the home field advantage, some on the team were a little disappointed they'll be playing the Mets and not the Giants.
"So I didn't have to face (Al) Leiter and (Mike) Hampton," said Jim Edmonds, who was 8 for 14 with two homers and seven RBIs in the sweep of the Braves. "I've seen enough of New York. They're tough, and I just thought it would be nice to go back to California and play there."
Second baseman Fernando Vina was excited about facing the Mets, though. They drafted him in 1990 and he played with them in 1994.
"Regardless of who you're playing, you're going to be fired up and ready to roll," Vina said. "But it gives you a little more electricity."
The Mets were 6-3 against the Cardinals in the regular season, sweeping them twice in May. The Cardinals returned the favor, sweeping New York Sept. 1-3.
"To the Mets, they're going to look at six wins," La Russa said. "To us, we're going to look at the three wins the last time we played them and know we're competitive. Each team has to have it's own confidence."
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