ST. LOUIS -- When Mark Mulder took a line drive off his pitching arm in the second inning and doubled over in pain, the St. Louis Cardinals figured it would be a short outing for their 16-game winner.
Instead, Mulder shook off the hard shot to his left biceps from Joe Randa -- the same way he tossed aside a pair of poor tuneup starts -- and put his team on the brink of a playoff sweep.
Mulder pitched shutout ball into the seventh yesterday and the Cardinals once again built an early lead, beating San Diego, 6-2, for a 2-0 edge in their best-of-five Division Series.
''Once the inning starts there's so much adrenaline it didn't bother me much," Mulder said. ''If I couldn't have made good pitches I would have said, 'All right, I've had enough.' I didn't want to come out of that game."
Matt Morris will try to clinch the series for St. Louis tomorrow at San Diego against Woody Williams.
Mulder, who was 16-8 in his first season since being acquired from Oakland, blanked a lineup stacked with seven righthanded hitters until the late innings, backed by four double plays, which tied the NLDS record. Mulder induced 13 ground outs and only one fly out.
''I like using my defense; that's why when you give up a hit I'm not going to be that mad," Mulder said. ''The next pitch you can get a double play. That's part of my game in a way."
Mulder kept the arm loose between innings by retreating to the clubhouse and applying a heat pack. After the game he said it looked like he had a ''golf ball" on his biceps but said it was just a bruise. He blamed himself for not fielding Randa's liner, or at least getting out of the way.
''Randa has raked me all season," Mulder said. ''So I should have been ready for it."
The Cardinals' first four runs came on balls that didn't leave the infield. David Eckstein had a run-scoring ground out and a squeeze bunt, Yadier Molina had an RBI grounder, and Albert Pujols drew a bases-loaded walk to finish Pedro Astacio after four innings.
Reggie Sanders, who drove in an NLDS-record six runs in Game 1, hit a two-run double off Rudy Seanez in the seventh that made it 6-1. Sanders has eight RBIs in eight at-bats this series.