Giants give Cardinals a Busch-wackingPosted: Wednesday October 09, 2002 11:58 PM
Updated: Sunday October 13, 2002 4:11 AM
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Whether slugging or scuffling, Barry Bonds is having quite a postseason.
Bonds delivered yet another big hit, then headed smack into the middle of an angry scrum as the San Francisco Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-6 Wednesday night in the opener of the NL Championship Series.
Though no punches were thrown in the fifth-inning skirmish, there was plenty of pushing and shoving. Bonds jawed with the Cardinals as it threatened to turn into a real slugfest -- and not the kind he's used to.
"My job is to protect my teammates, and I will neutralize it, that's that," Bonds said.
In a postseason that is rapidly becoming all his own, Bonds hit a two-run triple, scored twice and drew three walks. The four-time MVP, known in the past for his playoff failures, hit three home runs against Atlanta in the opening round.
"The thing this win does, it guarantees us four more games, that's it," Bonds said.
Benito Santiago, batting behind Bonds, homered and drove in four runs, and Kenny Lofton and David Bell also connected. It was 6-1 after three innings as the Giants tattooed Matt Morris, and it was a good omen for them -- the team that has won the last nine NLCS openers has gone on to reach the World Series.
It was the way Lofton admired his shot, however, that led to a high-and-tight pitch the next time around, emptying both benches and bullpens. There was plenty of pushing and shoving by Bonds and others, but no punches.
"This is the playoffs, you have fun, you enjoy it. I don't think I did anything wrong," Lofton said. "We were kicking their butts, and they wanted to do something to upset me."
Lofton had to be restrained by several teammates, a coach and an umpire after spinning away from reliever Mike Crudale's fastball.
"I don't think I overreacted," Lofton said.
As players sprinted toward the plate, Bonds and Cardinals reserve Eduardo Perez had to be separated, with Cardinals reliever Steve Kline pacifying the Giants slugger.
Managers Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker, who a day earlier gushed about how much they liked each other, started screaming in animated exchange that forced a pair of umpires to pull them apart.
La Russa said Lofton was to blame for showboating.
"That was very unnecessary. It's a trick I've seen him pull before," La Russa said. "It caused a lot of stirring around and people saying nasty things to each other."
But asked whether Crudale threw a purpose pitch, La Russa flatly said: "Absolutely not."
About the only one to keep cool was Kirk Rueter. Born and raised right across the Mississippi River, he kept winning at the ballpark where he rooted for the Cardinals as a kid.
The big lead enabled the Giants to hold off a rally fueled by home runs from Albert Pujols, surprising Miguel Cairo and pinch-hitter J.D. Drew. Robb Nen pitched the ninth for a save.
Game 2 is Thursday night with Woody Williams, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 20 because of a pulled muscle in his left side, starting for St. Louis against Jason Schmidt.
Busch Stadium, full of red and ready to erupt from the start, quickly grew silent as Lofton led off the game with a walk and, after an intentional walk to Bonds, scored on Santiago's two-out infield hit.
Morris retired the first two batters in the second, then suddenly lost it. Lofton singled, stole second and scored on Rich Aurilia's single. Kent followed with a single, and that brought up Bonds.
Bonds caught up with a hanging curve and lined a one-hop drive off the right-center field wall for a two-run triple, and an RBI single by Santiago made it 5-0.
"Batting behind that man, I'm going to have a lot of chances to do damage," Santiago said.
Lofton struck again with asolo homer in the third, standing near the plate to watch his drive sail over the right-field fence. The speedster casually flipped his bat aside before beginning his trot.
Bell's solo homer made it 7-1 in the fifth and finished Morris. One batter later, the trouble started.
Crudale's first pitch came close to Lofton -- not at his head, but too close from Lofton's view. Lofton shouted at Crudale before starting to yell at catcher Mike Matheny.
"I don't think he overacted," Baker said. "If there had been a thing, somebody would have come to blows or something. There was no thing."
It took a few minutes to restore order. Giants reserve Shawon Dunston, formerly with the Cardinals, eventually settled down Lofton. Dunston also stepped away with his teammate and showed Lofton how he had styled after the home run -- Lofton seemed to disagree with Dunston's imitation, but the point was made.
The 52,175 fans cheered loudly when Lofton flied out, and the crowd was revved up the rest of the way.
Pujols hit a two-run homer in the fifth, but Santiago offset that with his own two-run homer in the sixth for a 9-3 lead.
Cairo, starting in place of injured Scott Rolen, hit a two-run homer in the bottom half. The hit made him 7-for-7 in this year's playoffs before striking out.
Drew added a pinch-hit homer in the eighth.
Notes: Rueter is 5-0 in nine regular-season starts at Busch. ... Paul McCartney was in town, giving a concert a few blocks away. Cardinals president Mark Lamping invited the former Beatle to take part in the festivities, but the singer couldn't make it. ... Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight, one of La Russa's close friends, was in the Cardinals' clubhouse before the game. ... St. Louis 1B Tino Martinez was 0-for-13 in this year's playoffs before singling in the sixth. ... The last time a team won the NLCS opener and didn't go to the World Series was 1991, when Bonds and the Pirates beat Atlanta in Game 1.