Bonds, Giants beat Cards, 9-6

His 2-run triple, 3 walks help nab home-field edge

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 the course of 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 he led off 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.

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 and first and second and little choice for the Cardinals but to take their chances. Morris tried 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.

The Cardinals chose to shy away from him with a runner at first and no one out in the fourth and the strategy finally paid off. Santiago followed with a double play ball and the Giants failed to score for the first time in the game.

'You definitely don't want him to beat you." said Cardinals second baseman Fernando Vina before the start of the series, "but you have to be careful with the whole lineup because there are a lot of other guys on that team that can beat you."

That was very much the case in the early innings. The Giants sent seven men to the plate in the first and batted around in the second, getting two RBI singles from Santiago and one from Rich Aurilia.

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

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 Kenny 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.

Both teams charged toward home plate, but no punches were thrown. Giants manager Dusty 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.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, found Giants starting pitcher Kirk Reuter 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.

Reuter 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 with wishing distance in the sixth.

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

Now, the Cardinals must hope the 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.

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