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Fear of Bonds pays off for Giants

GIANTS 4, CARDINALS 3: Benito Santiago homers after walk to slugger, getting San Francisco one win from Series.

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 14, 2002


GIANTS 4, CARDINALS 3: Benito Santiago homers after walk to slugger, getting San Francisco one win from Series.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Catcher Mike Matheny extended his left arm, signifying the forthcoming intentional walk, before Barry Bonds even stepped into the batter's box Sunday evening.

Rather than pitch to the Giants leftfielder with the bases empty and two outs in the eighth inning of a tie game, the Cardinals wanted somebody else to beat them in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Pacific Bell Park.

And Benito Santiago did.

San Francisco's veteran catcher hit a two-run homer off former Rays reliever Rick White, sauntering halfway down the first-base line with his bat until the ball landed safely in the leftfield seats, as the Giants took the lead in an eventual 4-3 win before 42,676.

"It's just unbelievable," the 37-year-old Santiago said. "I don't know how to describe it at this time."

The NL's wild-card representative, San Francisco leads the series 3-1 and is one win from its first World Series since 1989.

The Cardinals, who have persevered through the deaths of teammate Darryl Kile and legendary broadcaster Jack Buck this season, are on the brink of elimination.

"A lot of times strategy is judged on whether it works," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "It didn't work. So it was a bad strategy.

"Bonds is the most dangerous hitter in the game right now. It's tough to walk in that clubhouse giving him a chance to get the hit that beats you. I know Santiago has been really tough, but that's a little easier to take."

White, who pitched for the Rays from 1998-2000 and was acquired by the Cardinals earlier this season, was on the mound when the Giants scored all their runs.

"When he hit it I didn't think it was gone," White said of the inside fastball he threw Santiago. "When he hit the ball I was watching him. He kind of spun around, took a couple of steps with his bat and I'm thinking it's either going to go foul or it's just a high fly.

"I turned around and saw the ball way up there and I saw Eli (Marrero) going back to the wall. I thought to myself, 'Holy (cow)! He hit a home run.' He got good barrel on it."

The right-hander not only allowed the decisive homer but gave up a two-run double to first baseman J.T. Snow in the sixth that tied the score at 2.

Those runs were charged to St. Louis starter Andy Benes, who walked two before coming out with one out in the sixth.

"White pitched so well, but missed his location twice," La Russa said. "And they were able to capitalize."

The Cardinals, much like the Giants in Game 3 on Saturday, failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities and made a winnable game unnecessarily close.

They went 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position, stranding runners at third in seven innings.

"We had some chances to add runs and we didn't," La Russa said. "That comes back to haunt you."

Benes was strong from the get-go and became the first pitcher in 17 games to hold the Giants scoreless through the first two innings.

San Francisco starter Livan Hernandez, who remains 6-0 in postseason play, faced an aggressive Cardinals lineup in his 6 1/3 innings. He allowed two runs on nine hits.

St. Louis second baseman Fernando Vina smacked a leadoff double in the first and scored on a groundout. Third baseman Albert Pujols, who was hit in the back by a Hernandez fastball, then scored on a bloop single to leftfield by first baseman Tino Martinez as the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead.

It was Martinez's first RBI of the postseason.

Closer Robb Nen allowed two hits in the ninth and a run on a single by St. Louis centerfielder Jim Edmonds, but he struck out the last two batters to end the game.

San Francisco will hope Kirk Rueter can secure a trip to the World Series in Game 5 today. The left-hander, who beat the Cardinals in Game 1, is 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA this season when pitching against the same team he faced in his previous start.

Matt Morris, who lasted 4 1/3 innings in Game 1 and allowed seven runs on 10 hits at Busch Stadium, starts for the Cardinals.

"I don't know what kind of advantage either of us have," Rueter said.

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