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 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 curling 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.

"You definitely don't want him to beat you." Cardinals second baseman Fernando Vina said 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.

"I've been seeing this for 2 1/2 months." Santiago said of Bonds being walked in front of him. 'I've been getting a lot of oppor tunities to do some damage. Dusty [Baker] put me in that position because of my concentration, and I've been feeling pretty comfortable there."

Said Baker: "We tried various guys in that slot. No. 1, he's a right-handed hitter. No. 2, he puts the ball in play. He knows how to hit in that situation. M-`He doesn't take it personally when they walk Barry."

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 sec ond inning.

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 top of the fifth. The line: 4 1/3 innings, seven runs, 10 hits.

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 volatile Lofton wasted no time engaging Crudale and Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny in an angry discussion on the mer its of the chin-high fastball.

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 plate umpire Randy Marsh intervened.

"I have never seen a pitcher taken out [Matt Morris] when another pitcher [Kirk Rueter] is coming to bat." Baker said. 'That's what I took exception to."

Did he think there is a problem between him and La Russa: 'We're still friends, 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 anymore?'

The Cardinals, meanwhile, found 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 within 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.

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.

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