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Updated: Saturday October 12, 2002 9:09 AM
  MLB PREVIEW
St. Louis Cardinals
Team Page |  Schedule |  Injuries
Stats: Batting |  Pitching
Chuck Finley W-L ERA
Postseason 0-0 0.00
Career vs. Giants 2-2 2.19
 
Russ Ortiz W-L ERA
Postseason 0-0 0.00
Career vs. Cardinals 1-3 5.16
San Francisco Giants
Team Page |  Schedule |  Injuries
Stats: Batting |  Pitching
Game Time: Oct. 12 4:05 PM EDT |  Today's Scoreboard
  Chuck Finley
  Russ Ortiz

SAN FRANCISCO (Ticker) -- The San Francisco Giants try to build a virtually insurmountable lead in the National League Championship Series on Saturday when they host the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Three at Pacific Bell Park.

The Giants won the first two games of the series at Busch Stadium, putting them in prime position for their first NLCS victory since defeating the Chicago Cubs in 1989. Saturday's game is crucial for both teams as no club has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit in a League Championship Series.

"It boils down to pitching and defense, and that's the whole key," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "If you're stepping on them, you've got to continue to step on them. So (Saturday) is a big game. It's a big game that there is a lot difference between 3-0 and 2-1. We would like to come out Saturday and do the same thing we've done the last couple of days."

"It's always important to paint your situation in a way that there's a positive slant on it so that you can think of something good happening," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "The reality is, we're 0-2. We have a tough-minded group, so I know we'll be ready (Saturday)."

San Francisco posted a 4-1 victory in Thursday's Game Two behind a strong performance from starter Jason Schmidt, who pitched seven scoreless innings before allowing a two-out homer to Eduardo Perez in the eighth.

Rich Aurilia homered twice and drove in three runs for the Giants. Aurilia has 11 RBI this postseason, tying the major league record record for a shortstop.

Barry Bonds was 0-for-3 with a walk in Game Two and struck out twice for just the fifth time in the playoffs. He has reached base in 14-of-30 plate appearances in the playoffs.

The Giants return to Pacific Bell Park, where they were 50-31 during the regular season. They split two games here in the NLDS and have not lost consecutive home games since September 4-5.

Russ Ortiz (2-0, 2.19 ERA) tries to remain unbeaten in the playoffs for San Francisco on Saturday. He has won both his playoff starts, giving up three runs and nine hits in 12 1/3 innings.

Ortiz won Monday's decisive Game Five of the NLDS at Atlanta as he allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings. He has won eight consecutive starts since losing to the Montreal Expos here on August 23.

"I think that brings more confidence, knowing that I can pitch in the postseason," he said. "It was great to be able to pitch both games on the road in Atlanta in that type of atmosphere. And I think that just helped me as a pitcher to learn more about what it takes to not only beat a great team at their ballpark, but do it in the playoffs. So I think I come into this series just a little more relaxed and a lot more confident."

The 28-year-old righthander is 1-3 with a 5.16 ERA in seven career appearances - six starts - against St. Louis, which he has not faced the season.

St. Louis has struggled to score runs in the series without third baseman Scott Rolen, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Division Series. The Cardinals have used two different lineups in the first two games, managing seven runs and 17 hits.

"(Thursday) Rolen had an extensive day of work," La Russa said. "I think (Saturday) will be a good day to see. He won't be in the starting lineup. The day you see him taking ground balls on the field and swinging, that's when it's legitimate to ask if he's available."

St. Louis was 45-36 on the road during the regular season - the fourth-best record in the National League - and won two road games against Arizona in the NLDS.

If the Cardinals continue to struggle offensively on Saturday, veteran Chuck Finley will need to pitch a gem.

It is what it is," Finley said. "Obviously, we would like to have come out here with a split.(Saturday) is a big day, as well as Sunday. I plan on going out there pitching well and giving us a chance to win. It's important to get off on a good note and let them know that we came to play and that we are not away."

Finley (0-0, 0.00) pitched 6 1/3 scoreless inning in Game Three of the NLDS against Arizona but did not receive a decision. He is 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in six career postseason starts.

The veteran lefthander has not lost September 1, going 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last six outings.

He has pitched really, really well for us from the first day," La Russa said. "As a veteran with experience, anything can happen with the crowd or the situation or their offense that he has not dealt with before. If he's sharp, I think he will give us a good chance to win from the pitching side."

Finley is 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA in two career starts against San Francisco, which he has not faced since 1999.

"The ultimate objective is for our team to win and move on to the next stage," he said. "Personally, if that's something that happens, fine. But as long as I pitch well enough to give our team a chance to win and we do win, then I'm satisfied with that."

© 2002 Sportsticker
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