Santiago has the hit that lights Giants' fire

Batter after Bonds' walk again makes foe pay

World Series

October 24, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO - Giants catcher Benito Santiago has watched it happen again and again. He claims that he doesn't take it personally when opposing pitchers walk Barry Bonds to bring him to the plate, but he clearly burns to make them pay.

He has succeeded many times during this postseason, and he owns a Most Valuable Player trophy from the National League Championship Series to prove it. He made the St. Louis Cardinals regret all those times they pitched around the big guy, but he was starting to wonder what he had to do to make a mark on the 98th World Series.

Santiago finally came through in the fifth inning of last night's 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Angels at Pacific Bell Park. He singled to center field to drive home Rich Aurilia with the tying run as the Giants rallied from a three-run deficit with an Angels-like eruption in the fifth inning.

It was about time. Santiago had managed just two hits and one RBI in his first 15 at-bats World Series at-bats, but it was worse than that.

The Angels walked Bonds to load the bases with one out in the first inning last night, and Santiago responded with a weak grounder to shortstop that David Eckstein turned into a relatively easy double play.

Santiago found himself in a similar situation in the third inning, after Bonds came up with runners at second and third. It was an obvious intentional walk situation, and the Angels put Bonds on without a second thought, but the 38-year-old catcher could not make them regret it.

Again, he hit a ground ball to Eckstein. Once again, Eckstein and the Angels' infield turned the double play.

So, imagine how he must have felt when the situation arose for a third straight time in the fifth inning. The Giants finally were getting something done at the plate. They already had scored twice after igniting an unlikely rally with a pair of bunt singles.

Pitcher Kirk Rueter beat the first one out, and Angels third baseman Troy Glaus was a split-second slow in plucking Kenny Lofton's dribbler off the ground after it crossed the foul line. The ball turned back and touched the chalk again just as Glaus grabbed it. Unfortunately for the Angels, umpire Jerry Crawford was in perfect position to see that it was fair - and replays showed that he had made the right call.

Aurilia singled home the first run of the game, and Jeff Kent drew the Giants within one with a sacrifice fly to bring Bonds to the plate with a runner at second base. Once again, there was no question about what Angels pitcher John Lackey was going to do. Bonds got his four wide ones, and Santiago got another chance.

This time, he made good, tying a game that the Giants would eventually win on an eighth-inning RBI single by No. 8 hitter David Bell.

Santiago's single would not be the decisive blow in the game, but it provided an emotional lift to a team that a few minutes earlier appeared destined for the brink of elimination in the best-of-seven series.

The victory represented a huge shift of momentum, because the Giants defeated overpowering relief phenom Francisco Rodriguez, who had come into the series with five postseason victories and had retired 12 straight batters in World Series play, when J.T. Snow opened the eighth inning with a single.

Now, both teams will be desperate to win tonight's swing game, which undoubtedly will mean more careful pitches to Bonds and more opportunities for Santiago.

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