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
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
"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
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