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Giants miss a chance to gain a stranglehold

CARDINALS 5, GIANTS 4: Bullpen shines as St. Louis pulls within 2-1 in NLCS.

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 13, 2002

CARDINALS 5, GIANTS 4: Bullpen shines as St. Louis pulls within 2-1 in NLCS.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blame is not Reggie Sanders' alone.

It's just that his performance in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday at Pacific Bell Park summarized San Francisco's effort in a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.

Sanders twice came up with the bases loaded and an opportunity to give San Francisco a lead. Both times he failed to get a hit.

"I'm probably putting too much pressure on myself," said Sanders, hitless this series. "I think I'm just too aggressive up there."

More than the revamped St. Louis lineup that produced three homers and the spotless effort by the Cardinals bullpen, the Giants missed a chance to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series because they couldn't capitalize when it counted most before a sellout of 42,177.

"We just couldn't get that big hit today," manager Dusty Baker said.

The Giants went 0-for-5 with the bases loaded, leaving the bases full in the first, second and seventh innings, and were 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

"You can't expect us to go out every day and get six base hits in a row, or everybody getting two-out RBI hits. It's not going to happen all the time," San Francisco shortstop Rich Aurilia said. "Today it didn't happen for us.

"We didn't play a bad game. We played a pretty good ballgame. We just didn't capitalize on some opportunities."

After St. Louis was outscored 13-7 in the first two games of the series, manager Tony La Russa revised his lineup. The most significant changes were moving Edgar Renteria to second in the batting order and inserting Eli Marrero back into the lineup in place of former Ray Miguel Cairo.

The changes worked. Renteria got an RBI with a sacrifice fly in the third, and Marrero hit the winning home run.

"We didn't anticipate leaving St. Louis down two," catcher Mike Matheny said. "But we came in here and we knew that we had to turn it around in a hurry."

Cheered in the dugout by Darryl Kile's 5-year-old son Kannon, St. Louis got homers from Matheny in the fourth, centerfielder Jim Edmonds in the fifth and leftfielder Marrero in the sixth.

Dave Veres, Steve Kline, Rick White and Jason Isringhausen pitched four scoreless innings of relief.

"They shut us down," Baker said of the Cardinals bullpen. "But like I said, we had a bunch of opportunities. They just managed to get out of trouble."

The Giants left the bases loaded in the first and second, going 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and managing just one run despite sloppy defensive play by the Cardinals.

Aurilia put the Giants ahead 1-0 with a sacrifice fly in the second, but St. Louis took its first lead of the series in a two-run third against Giants starter Russ Ortiz, who was pulled with one out in the fifth and the Cardinals ahead 4-1.

The Giants tied it in the fifth with a clutch three-run homer by leftfielder Barry Bonds.

Bonds' fourth homer of the postseason landed in McCovey Cove beyond the rightfield wall, but Marrero sailed his homer over Bonds' head and into the leftfield seats to reclaim the lead.

"It was an awesome home run in a key situation," Sanders said of Bonds' homer. "We got the momentum back to where we needed it to be. But then they came back out and answered."

The Giants, who had the bases loaded and one out but failed to score in the seventh, lead the series 2-1 and can clinch their first World Series berth since 1989 at home by winning the next two.

St. Louis' task remains much tougher, as only the '85 Cardinals and '84 Padres have won the NLCS after losing the first two, but those in the clubhouse were confident it can happen again.

"I knew we had to win this game today to make it a series," La Russa said. "You go down 3-0, we would be brave and all that stuff out here (today), but it would have been really tough."

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