Giants make it a wild West Series

Lofton's two-out single in 9th ousts Cardinals, 2-1

They join Angels in W. Series

Bonds' sacrifice in 8th ties it

1st trip since '89

National League Championship Series

October 15, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO - The 98th World Series will be played entirely on the left coast, by two long-denied franchises that did not win their respective divisions, and yet there is little doubt that the best teams emerged from the first two playoff rounds.

The San Francisco Giants scratched out a tense, 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals last night at Pacific Bell Park to win the National League Championship Series in such decisive fashion that a return trip to the Midwest was not even necessary.

Kenny Lofton lined a single off reliever Steve Kline with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to score David Bell and carry the Giants to a five-game victory that set up an Interstate 5 Fall Classic against the first-time American League champion Anaheim Angels.

The Giants charged out of third place in the NL West to challenge the Arizona Diamondbacks for the division title, then dispatched the 101-win Atlanta Braves to reach the NLCS. Despite their terrific finish, they still were considered slight underdogs against the Cardinals, but they swept the first two games at Busch Stadium and took two of three at Pac Bell to reach the World Series for the first time since 1989.

The sellout crowd of 42,673 went absolutely bananas when Bell flew home with a headfirst slide and saved the Giants a flight to St. Louis for any further games in the series.

What a heartstopping finish.

What a heartbreaking end for the Cardinals, who endured so much over the course of a 2002 season that was both tragic and inspiring.

What a final, heroic performance by Cardinals starter Matt Morris, who carried a shutout into the eighth inning and worked right up to the final batter in the ninth. Kline came on after Bell and veteran utilityman Shawon Dunston delivered back-to-back two-out singles. Lofton lined his first pitch to right field, where Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew fielded it on one hop and made a desperate throw home that was wide.

It wasn't close and the first-ever all-wild-card World Series will begin on Saturday at Edison International Field.

Veteran reliever Tim Worrell, the fourth pitcher to take the mound for the Giants after starter Kirk Rueter pitched six scoreless innings, got the victory for 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Morris took the loss, but deserved a far better fate for bouncing back so magnificently from a disappointing performance in Game 1.

Giants catcher Benito Santiago was named MVP of the series.

Morris has overcome a lot of obstacles during an injury-marred major-league career, including the emotional devastation of losing his close friend Darryl Kile earlier this season, but Game 5 clearly was his greatest on-field challenge.

He responded by retiring the first nine batters he faced and holding the Giants hitless into the fifth inning, quite in contrast to his rocky 10-hit performance in the opener of the series at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals ace looked like a different pitcher this time, but he did evoke memories of that first game when he drilled leadoff man Lofton with a pitch in the fourth inning.

Lofton sparked a bench-clearing confrontation when reliever Mike Crudale hit him with a pitch in Game 1, and it was widely suspected in the Giants clubhouse that the alleged purpose pitch was in retaliation for the way Lofton showboated after hitting a home run off Morris earlier in the game.

There was no reason to suspect anything this time, since the speedy Lofton was leading off an inning in a scoreless game and Morris was working on a perfect game at the time.

The fans also booed when Morris came too close to Santiago with a curveball in the fifth and hit Rich Aurilia on the hand in the sixth, but in each case there was no logic to support their suspicions.

He worked aggressively and worked out of trouble effectively when the Giants finally made a little noise in the middle innings, buying time until the Cardinals could take advantage of one of their numerous scoring opportunities.

The Giants found him so tough that the closest they came to scoring in the early innings was on a disputed play in the fifth when Santiago bumped into third baseman Miguel Cairo as he rounded third on a bloop double by J.T. Snow.

Santiago argued that Cairo blocked his path, hoping that umpire Jeff Nelson would award him home plate, but Nelson ruled that Santiago would not have scored on the play - apparently noticing that third base coach Sonny Jackson was holding him up at third.

"It was the right call in my opinion," said umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo, citing Rule 7.06 (b) of the Official Baseball Rules. "If there was a play being made directly on the runner, then he advances one base, but there was no direct play being made. The throw was going to the cutoff man.

"If he felt 100 percent that Santiago would have scored if there had been no obstruction, then he could have given him the run, but you don't assume it."

Rueter allowed five hits in the first three innings, but the Cardinals looked very much like the team that passed up so many chances to pounce on Livan Hernandez in the early innings of Game 4.

Rueter, who was winning pitcher in Game 1, worked six scoreless innings before giving way to reliever Felix Rodriguez, who allowed a leadoff double to Mike Matheny in the seventh to set up the first run of the game.

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