Mr. Clutch delivers again for Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Scott Spiezio is a fun-loving, hard-rocking, goatee-dying maniac. He plays the guitar on stage, hits triples like he's Jose Reyes in the ballpark, and is universally appreciated by his teammates as a player who's one of the best during the postseason.

On Saturday night, Spiezio again showed why, smacking a two-run triple in the first inning en route to the Cardinals' 5-0 win over the Mets in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. St. Louis now has a surprising 2-1 lead in the series.

"He's clutch. It's ridiculous, his postseason numbers" reliever Josh Kinney said. "We were just talking about that in the bullpen. The guy's a gamer. He looks forward to the situation."

And for two straight nights, he capitalized. In Game 2, Spiezio -- playing third base -- hit a game-tying, two-run triple in the Cardinals' win. Manager Tony La Russa wanted to keep him in the lineup, so Spiezio was in left field for Game 3, and the move paid off. Spiezio broke out his legs again, this time smacking a two-run triple off Steve Trachsel down the right-field line, forcing Shawn Green to misplay the ball.

Spiezio's a .318 hitter with 25 RBI in 21 career postseason games. And whether he's on a stage playing guitar as the lead singer of his band SandFrog, or hitting in front of 47,053 fans, Spiezio feeds off the adrenaline.

"Baseball's much more of a calm thing for me because I've done it so long," said Spiezio, who has an NLCS-leading five RBI. "They're both a rush in their own separate way."

His two worlds collided when Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler sang one of the better renditions of "God Bless America" in the seventh inning. Spiezio had to lead off the inning afterward, and said because he was so pumped up after Tyler's performance, he struck out. Tyler then came into the Cards clubhouse afterward. The two spoke briefly.

What did Spiezio say to the Hall of Fame singer?

"I told him he was great, he took the high note on it and nailed it," Spiezio said. "It really put a nice flair to it, gave it a signature to a standard song."

Flair is certainly what the 34-year-old infielder-outfielder is known for, with a dyed-red goatee patch underneath his lip that's caught on with fans. But he thinks his teammates assume he's crazy, "I wouldn't call him crazy," Kinney said. "He's fun."

Spiezio dyes his patch, which is known as an imperial, every day, sometimes twice. And now the vendors are selling fake red imperials on the street, with even 40-something women sporting them throughout Busch Stadium.

"I'm not getting any part of the money. I need a marketing deal or something," Spiezio joked. "It's pretty cool to see."

"I always attribute a lot of it to my dad. He was always getting me ready for that situation. I felt once I got to the playoffs that I've already done it a million times because of that."
-- Scott Spiezio on being clutch in the postseason

That he's found a home in St. Louis should come as no surprise, really. His father, Ed, was a former third baseman for the Cardinals in the 1960s and won a ring with them. Spiezio's already got his with the Angels when he broke out in 2002, tying a postseason record with 19 RBI and going 11-for-16 with runners in scoring position, also tying a record.

At the time, Spiezio spoke about how his father would take him into the backyard and pitch to him as if it were Game 7, bottom of the ninth and a 3-2 count.

The story's been circulated ever since, and Scott doesn't mind telling it over and over again.

"I always attribute a lot of it to my dad. He was always getting me ready for that situation," Spiezio said. "I felt once I got to the playoffs that I've already done it a million times because of that."

Rock star or baseball player, crazy or sane, Spiezio at least seems to have figured out his identity as a postseason hero.

Amy K. Nelson is a writer/reporter for ESPN The Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.