Cards calm down, climb back into NLCSPosted: Saturday October 12, 2002 8:54 PM
Updated: Sunday October 13, 2002 3:21 AM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- To climb back into the NL Championship Series, the St. Louis Cardinals first had to pull themselves together.
The Cardinals overcame a confused start in Game 3 on Saturday before holding off the San Francisco Giants 5-4 to cut their series deficit to 2-1. The turning point: Four players trotted off the field after the second inning muttering to each other about the latest in a series of shaky plays and how it all had to stop.
"We were playing like rookies," shortstop Edgar Renteria said. "We were all trying to do too much. After that, we did well."
Skittish St. Louis survived by cleaning up its act and, aside from Barry Bonds' game-tying, three-run homer in the fifth, avoiding the big inning. The Giants left the bases loaded three times and stranded 11 runners overall.
"We usually play good, but even when we don't play good we play hard," manager Tony La Russa said. "You play hard, sometimes you can salvage it."
The presence of Kannon Kile, the 5-year-old son of Darryl Kile, in the dugout perhaps helped the Cardinals keep their cool. Kannon, wearing a tiny uniform and sucking on a lollipop, was introduced with the rest of the team in honor of his father, who died June 22.
"It was very special having him out there," catcher Mike Matheny said. "I applaud the San Francisco people for announcing him, and for how the people responded."
The NL Central champions, who lost the first two games of the series at home, looked extremely tight right away as the Giants loaded the bases without a hit in the first.
Renteria tried to make a backhand stop of Kenny Lofton's grounder to start the inning and booted it for an error. Then second baseman Fernando Vina forgot to cover second on Benito Santiago's two-out grounder. Everybody was safe, and the Giants had the bases loaded.
The confusion continued when Reggie Sanders hit a short popup -- an easy play for charging center fielder Jim Edmonds. Not so easy as Vina went flying by, nearly screening his teammate.
"That was one of the great plays of our year," La Russa said. "I don't know how Jim caught that ball."
In the second, Edmonds threw to the wrong base after a sacrifice fly by Lofton gave the Giants the lead for the third straight game. Then third baseman Albert Pujols failed to field pitcher Russ Ortiz's bunt, staying near the bag as Ortiz got a gift hit.
"Pujols should have kept coming," La Russa said. "We teach people, when in doubt take the out."
Vina again nearly got in the way on Bonds' shallow fly to right fielder J.D. Drew with the bases loaded to end the second.
Drew, Edmonds, Vina and Tino Martinez slowly jogged off the field together while they discussed the defense. All of them complained about crowd noise drowning out their calls.
"We just tried to get things straightened out," Drew said. "Everybody wants to make a play and make sure you make the outs.
"You might go a whole season and have only one of those plays."
All the extra baserunners made it a tough go for starter Chuck Finley, a 19-year veteran and 200-game winner who finally won his first playoff game. Many of his pitches were riding in on the hitters' hands.
"They were hitting a lot of bloopers in no-man's land," Drew said.
The Cardinals bailed out Finley out in the sixth on Eli Marrero's first career postseason homer for a 5-4 lead.
In the seventh, another misplay nearly doomed them. Reliever Dave Veres bent down to scoop up Santiago's tapper to the right of the mound and missed it completely as the Giants loaded the bases with one out.
Veres said he was trying to make the throw before he had the ball.
"That's why I'm not a shortstop," he said. "That's why they always used to put me in right field."
St. Louis recovered when Veres struck out Sanders, 4-for-31 in the postseason, and Steve Kline got J.T. Snow on a grounder to second.