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Closer Look

Clark's ninth-inning kick puts Cards in 0-2 hole

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Posted: Friday October 13, 2000 2:44 AM
  Will Clark's error was the key to New York's victory. AP

By John Donovan,

ST. LOUIS -- All the things that went right for the St. Louis Cardinals in their Division Series win over the Atlanta Braves -- well, they're going way wrong right now.

All those leads the Cards had against the Braves? The New York Mets have them now. All the balls that Atlanta booted around? Happening to the Cards now.

Already down a game in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series to the scrappy New York Mets, the Cards had a chance Thursday night to get back on even footing in Game 2.

But the foot they got back on was the wrong one. The right wrong one, in fact.

And it belonged to Will Clark, heretofore a postseason hero in St. Louis.

"You go out there and take groundballs every day," Clark said, shaking his head slightly after his ninth-inning error led to the Mets' winning run in a 6-5 Game 2 marathon. "I just flat-out booted it."

The Cardinals fought their way out of a pair of two-run holes Thursday night, the last time by scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the score. But none of it mattered when they took the field for the top of the ninth, with reliever Mike Timlin facing the left-handed hitting Robin Ventura, the Mets' third baseman.

Timlin quickly threw three straight balls to Ventura, then managed to get one across the plate with Ventura taking the pitch. On the fifth pitch, though, Ventura drilled a screamer at first baseman Clark.

The former Gold Glover moved slightly to his right and bounced up as the ball took its bounce just in front of his glove. But Clark's bounce was higher than the ball's, and it skittered under his glove and off his right foot for the error.

"I was expecting the ball to come up, and it didn't," Clark said. "It was one of those balls that had topspin on it. It hit me in the shoe. Basically, it was your routine boot."

As it turned out, that was the only break the Mets needed. Benny Agbayani laid down a sacrifice bunt that Clark fielded cleanly, pushing Ventura to second.

Then, with Joe McEwing pinch-running for Ventura, Mets center fielder Jay Payton worked his way back from an 0-2 count, smacking the sixth pitch he saw from Timlin (on a 1-2 count) for a clean single to center field. The Cards' Jim Edmonds misplayed the hop, which enabled Payton to get to third. But the damage was done -- McEwing may have scored anyway on the hit -- and the Mets took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Clark is a career .992 fielder, and St. Louis finished middle-of-the-pack defensively this season with a .981 mark. But the Cardinals committed three errors in Game 2 and now find themselves in a terrible position. Only two teams in the history of the NLCS have come back from an 0-2 deficit to make it to the World Series.

To come back, they'll have to win at least two in New York in Games 3, 4 and 5. But the way things are going right now ... well, it just doesn't seem to be in the Cards.

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