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Cardinals knock out champs

Ex-Ray Miguel Cairo drives in and scores two as St. Louis sweeps the World Series champion D'backs with a 6-3 win.

©Associated Press

October 6, 2002

Ex-Ray Miguel Cairo drives in and scores two as St. Louis sweeps the World Series champion D'backs with a 6-3 win.

ST. LOUIS -- After getting past Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the Cardinals quickly finished off the defending World Series champions.

Miguel Cairo, starting in place of injured Scott Rolen, drove in and scored two as St. Louis beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-3 Saturday night to complete a three-game sweep in the NL division series.

"We really wanted to try to win it and get some rest before the next round," leadoff hitter Fernando Vina said. "We didn't want to face Randy and Curt, we wanted to get it over with."

Playing an inspired postseason after the deaths of pitcher Darryl Kile and broadcaster Jack Buck, the Cardinals advanced to the NL Championship Series for the second time in three seasons. They did it by defeating the team that chased them in a tense Game 5 of the opening round last season.

"This win right here is for D.K. and Jack Buck," Vina said. "They're part of the Cardinals family and we lost them. My heart goes out to the families. Hopefully we can go all the way to the end."

Pitcher Matt Morris carried Kile's jersey into a group celebration near second base after the final out. St. Louis faces Atlanta or San Francisco starting Wednesday.

There's no telling when, or if, Rolen will return to the lineup. The All-Star third baseman injured his left shoulder in Game 2, which Cairo won with a run-scoring single.

The Diamondbacks, who won the World Series in record speed (it took them four years) lost their crown in three games.

Minus injured star Luis Gonzalez, who separated his shoulder in the final week of the regular season at Busch Stadium, Arizona totaled six runs and 18 hits in the series.

The Diamondbacks also were without Craig Counsell and Danny Bautista.

"It puts a strain on the offense," manager Bob Brenly said. "It gives the opposition the opportunity to pitch around the hitters they think can hurt them the most. It started to show up at the end of the season, and really here in the playoffs."

Without the Diamondbacks or Yankees, fans are assured of seeing new teams in the World Series for the first time since 1998.

The Cardinals have swept their way into the NLCS three times since baseball went to a division series format in 1995, taking the Braves in three in 2000 and the Padres in 1996.

Counting the regular season, the Cardinals have beaten the Diamondbacks seven straight times, including a victory over Johnson in Game 1. Schilling started Game 2, and St. Louis won once he departed.

Cairo, the former Rays infielder, went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring double in the eighth as the Cardinals scored twice off Byung-Hyun Kim. Pinch-hitter Kerry Robinson, a former Rays farmhand, added a run-scoring single in the eighth.

Pitcher Andy Benes squeezed home the go-ahead run for St. Louis. Albert Pujols drove in a run and saved one with his second outfield assist, preserving a 4-3 lead in the fifth when he threw out Chris Donnels at the plate from leftfield on Steve Finley's two-out hit.

During the regular season, Cairo ranked second in the NL with 19 pinch hits.

"I tried to take this game like another game, like a regular-season game," Cairo said. "Today, I was just thinking I was pinch-hitting every at-bat."

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