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10/09/06 1:17 AM ET

Padres Short Hops: Game 4

Season slips away from Williams, Padres in four-run sixth

ST LOUIS -- Fielding the Padres' elimination loss on a short hop ...

In < 25 words ...
Woody Williams dueled his old buddy Chris Carpenter into the sixth inning, but the game, and the season, slipped away from the Padres.

Frozen moment
Williams had found a groove after a shaky first inning, and retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced from the second inning through the end of the fifth. But he walked Albert Pujols leading off the sixth, and Juan Encarnacion hit a hanging breaking ball down the right-field line for a triple that knocked Williams out of the game and keyed the Cardinals' winning rally.

Big number
Nine. That's how many Cardinals came to the plate against Williams and reliever Cla Meredith in the decisive sixth. The Cardinals plated four runs, two of them earned, on three hits, a walk, a hit batsman, a squeeze bunt and a costly error by Padres third baseman Russell Branyan.

Game balls
Williams, four. Scuffled in the first inning and squandered a two-run lead, but then pitched well into the sixth. Teammate Jake Peavy called him "Big Game Woody" before the game, and Williams rose to the occasion.

Branyan, two. He worked a bases-loaded walk to put the Padres on the board against a shockingly shaky Carpenter in the top of the first inning, but his throwing error in the sixth loomed large.

Padres lineup, one. The Padres went 1-for-7 in the game with runners in scoring position and 2-for-32 in the series. But at least there were some productive plate appearances in the clutch on Sunday, including three walks and an RBI forceout in the first inning. Pinch-hitter Mike Piazza's double-play groundout in the eighth was a real killer.

Sense of October
Branyan was the hero in Game 3, delivering a clutch, two-run double. He had a chance to silence the sellout crowd again in Game 4 when he fielded a weak grounder off Carpenter's bat with the bases loaded in the sixth and went for the lead out at home plate. Branyan's throw pulled Josh Bard off the plate, and the rally was on.

Lines of the Game
Adrian Gonzalez
2-for-4, R
Comment: Gonzalez batted .357 in the series. The only Padre better was Dave Roberts (.467).

5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, K, HBP
Comment: Williams deserved a better fate. From the second through the fifth innings, retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced.

"It just happens. I mean, it's not something you can go work on. You can take batting practice, you can play this game all year long, and it's just a coincidence that we couldn't get it done with runners on. The press writes it and you read about it, and even if you're not vocal about it, you're thinking about it in your head."
-- Branyan, on the team's struggles in the clutch

Next step
Next stop, Peoria, Ariz., in mid-February, when the Padres will hit the reset button for the start of another season.

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