Bonds makes swing count, 9-6

Walked 3 times, his triple helps Giants take opener

October 10, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS - The National League Championship Series could hinge on that one simple question that has beguiled virtually every manager in the National League over the past two years: Do you pitch to Barry Bonds or don't you?

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa found out in last night's 9-6 loss to the San Francisco Giants that there may not be a correct answer.

Bonds delivered a two-run triple as the Giants scored four times in the second inning and took control of the opening game of the NLCS at sold-out Busch Stadium. It was the only time that the Cardinals threw a hittable pitch to him until the ninth inning.

In his other four plate appearances, he walked three times and No. 5 hitter Benito Santiago delivered two RBI singles and a two-run home run to provide much of the firepower in an 11-hit offensive onslaught that quickly neutralized the Cardinals' home-field advantage in the best-of-seven series.

"I've been seeing that for 2 1/2 months hitting behind this man," Santiago said. "That didn't start tonight. I've been getting a lot of opportunities to do some damage. It seems like since Dusty [Baker] put me in this position, my concentration has been at a high level and I'm really focused on what I'm doing."

Cardinals starter Matt Morris didn't throw a pitch close to the plate in Bonds' first at-bat - with a runner at third and two outs - but Santiago followed with a swinging bunt down the third base line that brought home the first run of the game anyway.

Bonds came up in the second inning with runners on first and second and little choice for the Cardinals but to take their chances. Morris tried to curl a breaking ball over the plate and watched helplessly as Bonds lined a triple over the head of center fielder Jim Edmonds to give the Giants a four-run lead.

Darned if you do. Darned if you don't.

Morris struggled with his location and played a major role in a dubious championship series record, giving up a record six hits in six consecutive plate appearances in a four-run second.

He also allowed the home run to Kenny Lofton in the third and ended a truly forgettable outing by surrendering a long home run to David Bell in the fifth. The line: 4 1/3 innings, seven runs, 10 hits and only two strikeouts.

"Not sharp," said La Russa. "His stuff was good. He just made a lot of location mistakes, and they are a good club and made him pay."

The Giants would go on to hit three home runs and tee off so regularly in the middle innings that it looked fairly suspicious when Cardinals relief pitcher Mike Crudale whizzed a fastball up and in to leadoff hitter Lofton in the fifth.

Lofton took offense and sharp words were followed by a bench-clearing confrontation.

The Giants obviously thought that Crudale was delivering a message to Lofton, who had homered earlier in the game. It wasn't exactly a head shot, but the volatile Lofton took it that way and wasted no time engaging Crudale and Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny in an angry discussion on the merits of the chin-high fastball.

"That was unnecessary," La Russa said. "It's a trick I've seen him pull before, causing a lot of stirring and people saying nasty things to each other. ... You throw the ball inside and he's always reacting like you're trying to hit him. He's just trying to change the way the game is played and not have anybody pop him inside."

Both teams charged toward home plate, but no punches were thrown. Baker aggressively sought out La Russa, presumably to express his outrage over the alleged purpose pitch, but home plate umpire Randy Marsh inserted himself between them until tempers cooled.

Much has been made this week of the mutual admiration between the two managers in this series, who are friends and former teammates, but it was put to the test in Game 1. Stay tuned.

"We're still friends," Baker said, "but on the field we're competitors. We just had a discussion. That's part of the game. When you fight with your wife, does that mean you don't love her any more?"

The Cardinals found Giants starting pitcher Kirk Rueter as tough as they remembered in the early innings. He entered the game with a 5-0 career record and 2.28 lifetime ERA against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, which is located within driving distance of his hometown of Nashville, Ill.

Rueter allowed a run in the second inning and pitched with runners on base all evening, but appeared to be cruising through a relatively stress-free outing until Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer in the fifth and fill-in third baseman Miguel Cairo blasted a two-run shot to pull the Cardinals within wishing distance in the sixth at 9-5.

Cairo's home run was his seventh consecutive hit in a postseason that he was supposed to be watching from the bench. But his performance provided only small consolation for a Cardinals team that arrived in the NLCS on a major roll.

Now, the Cardinals must hope Game 2 starter Woody Williams is healthy enough to salvage a split of the first two games at Busch Stadium or the Giants will go home in a commanding position in this best-of-seven series.

NLCS schedule

St. Louis vs. San Francisco(Best of seven; *-if necessary)

TV:Chs. 45, 5

Giants lead series 1-0

Last night: San Francisco, 9-6

Today:San Francisco (Schmidt 13-9) at St. Louis (Williams 9-4), 8:19 p.m.

Saturday:at S.F., 4:20 p.m.

Sunday:at S.F., 7:50 p.m.

*Monday:at S.F., 8:20 p.m.

*Wed.:at St. L., 4:20 p.m.

*Oct. 17:at St. L., 8:20 p.m.

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