Schmidt arms Giants with 2-0 lead, 4-1

Starter allows Cardinals 4 hits in 7 2/3 innings, sends Giants home in charge

Aurilia hits two home runs

Williams: 2 bad pitches in his return from injury

Bonds held to a walk

Baseball Playoffs

October 11, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS - The San Francisco Giants had to claw and scratch their way out of third place in the National League West to earn the wild-card berth that allowed them to keep playing tins October.

They had to go five games to outlast the 101-win Atlanta Braves In the first round of the playoffs to reach the National League Championship Series.

Now, they're making It look too easy.

Shortstop Rich Aurllla hit two home runs and rlght-hander Ja-son Schmidt dominated the po-tent St. Louis Cardinals lineup for 72A innings as the Giants scored a 4-1 victory in Game 2 last night at Busch Stadium.

Schmidt allowed Just four hits and struck out eight to give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, winch shifts to Pacific Bell Park for the first of three games tomorrow after-noon.

There's still a long way to go, but the Giants clearly have knocked the NI Central champions back on their heels and challenged any notion that the Cardinals were this year's "team of destiny." No one should be surprised. The Giants were In third place, 11 1/2 games out of the NL West lead when they started their amazing comeback on Aug. 25. Since then, they have won 30 out of 40 games including the five postseason victories that have put them two wins from their first World Series appearance since the "Earthquake Series" of 1989.

The Cardinals came into tins postseason as the sentimental favorite after enduring a season of tragedy and heartache, but the Giants bullied then in Game 1 and dis-patched them in Game 2 with a balanced and businesslike performance that kept the sellout crowd of 52,195 quiet for most of the evening.

There would be no splliover from Wednesday's contentious opener, which featured six home runs and a bench-clearing confrontation that led to a $500 fine for each manager.

Giants leadoff man Kenny Lofton, who touched off the Game 1 altercation with his reaction to an inside pitch from Cardinals reliever Mike Crudale, was booed heavily when the line-ups were announced and each time he came to bat, but he apparently had used up his best shots the night before.

He did get some camera time in the fifth inning when he groused at plate umpire Jeff Nelson after being called out on a checked-swing third strike, but he wasn't able to muster any revenge against the Cardinals' pitching staff in four fruitless at-bats.

Aurilia was another story. He launched his first home run of the evening in the first inning and padded the slim Giants' lead with a two-run shot in the fifth, becoming the first Giants hitter to hit, two homers in a postseason game since Jeff Kent did so in the 1997 Division Series.

If not for those two pitches, St. Louis starter Woody Williams might have provided the inspiring lift that the Cardinals needed to stay viable in this best-of-seven series.

Manager Tony La Russa took a big chance by giving him the ball, since Williams had not pitched in 20 days because of a muscle strain in his side, but he had come off the disabled list twice during the regular season with solid performances. He came back strong again last night, but the Cardinals needed something more than a workmanlike performance from their starting pitcher with Schmidt throwing so well and with so much at stake in Game 2.

Williams worked a solid six innings and allowed just the three runs generated by Aurilia. He gave up six hits, struck out seven and held Barry Bonds to just a walk in three plate appearances, it just wasn't enough.

Still, it was difficult to second-guess the decision to insert him into the second slot in the rotation, though left-bander Chuck Finley was coming off a very impressive performance against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series.

"We just felt like our rotation was better balanced if we would split up Matt [Morris] and Chuck with Woody and Andy [Benes]," La Russa said before the game. "Chuck has had a lot of tremendous experience in these situations and he's pitched well at home, pitched well on the road in Arizona and other places. We just thought it balanced us better."

Schmidt allowed just two hits through the first six innings, both of them coming in an abortive third-inning rally that ended with a poor base-running decision by Cardinals outfielder J.D, Drew.

Drew and Mike Matheny opened the inning with back-to-back singles and Williams executed a perfect sacrifice bunt. Division Series hero Fernando Vina followed with a fly ball to shallow left field that didn't appear deep enough to allow Drew to tag up and score.

It wasn't. Lofton made the catch and gunned out Drew on a play that was closer than it probably should have been. The Cardinals did not get another hit until Albert Pujols legged out a two-out infield bottom of the single in the bottom of the second.

The Cardinals finally scored on a pinch-hit homer by Educardo Perez with two outs in the eighth. Robb Nen got four outs for his second save of the series.

Ramon Martinez, who replaced Aurilia at shortstop in a double switch, had a suicide-squeeze bunt in the ninth for an insurance run.

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