PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Miguel Cairo helped the St. Louis
Cardinals leave the desert with a commanding lead in their
National League Division Series.
Cairo singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning
and five pitchers combined on a six-hitter as the Cardinals
edged the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-1, to move within one win of
their second NL Championship Series appearance in three years.
One inning after entering as a defensive replacement as part of
a double switch, Cairo produced the biggest hit of his
"I am just blessed right now," he said. "I'm in the best
organization in baseball. Since I've been here, it's been so
good for me. They've been treating me so well. Today, the base
hit just made it better. What a beautiful day today was for
But Edgar Renteria led off the ninth with a single off Mike
Koplove (0-1) and was sacrificed into scoring position by Mike
Matheny. Cairo, waived by the Chicago Cubs last season, bounced
Koplove's next pitch up the middle to score Renteria without a
Cairo had 19 hits as a pinch hitter during the season and said
he approached the key at-bat with that mind-set.
"I always get ready to pinch hit. Today I got the chance, the
opportunity to go out there," he explained. "I was just looking
for a fastball to hit somewhere hard. I get the fastball right
(down) the middle, a little in, but I tried to hit it to the
"You've seen it all year long," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa
added. "You look at his pinch-hitting record, he's right at the
top of the league this year. He has gotten so many huge pinch
hits, just like today. Drive in a run, start of the rally,
middle of the rally, I think it's a tribute to how hard he
The hit made a winner of Jeff Fassero (1-0), who got the last
out in the bottom of the eighth. Jason Isringhausen did not
allow a ball out of the infield in a perfect ninth for his first
The series shifts to St. Louis for Game Three on Saturday.
"This is a three out of five series. We know who we're playing
against, the defending champions. We have total respect," La
Russa said. "We're really excited we got two. But trust me,
there will be nobody that's half-stepping on Saturday because we
know how dangerous the Diamondbacks are."
"It's tough. It means you're in an 0-2 hole going back to their
ballpark," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly, who starts
Miguel Batista on Saturday as he tries to avoid being swept.
"It's probably the understatement of the season that our work is
cut out for us now."
Matt Morris and Finley more than matched Johnson and Schilling
as the Cardinals limited the defending World Series champions to
three runs and 14 hits in the first two games.
Finley gave up four hits and two walks and struck out seven
before his pitching hand began to cramp up.
"My index finger kind of started shutting down toward my palm,"
the lefthander explained. "I couldn't get it to relax. When I
was facing that first batter, after every pitch it would kind of
"Cannot give him enough credit," La Russa said. "Coming in, he
was one of the keys to our chance. First couple innings, he
made great pitches, then he started pitching even better."
Of more concern to La Russa and the Cardinals is the condition of
third baseman Scott Rolen, who suffered a sprained left shoulder
on a key play in the seventh inning.
Trailing 1-0, the Diamondbacks had runners at first and second
with two out. Rolen charged Junior Spivey's ground ball but was
kicked by pinch runner Alex Cintron, who was called out for
"It was an instinctive play," Brenly said. "He read the ball
off the bat. I think he thought it was hit a little bit harder
than it was. When Rolen came into the baseline to field it, he
tried his best to get out of the way but unfortunately made
contact. Just one of those things that happens."
"Trust me, if he wouldn't have interfered, the inning would have
been over and we would still have a third baseman," La Russa
said. "I'm sitting out there, thinking about it. My heart is
really warm about the way we're playing, and I'm sick to my
stomach about Scott."
La Russa's mood took a turn for the worse in the eighth. Albert
Pujols, who moved to third from left field after Rolen's
injury, mishandled a grounder off the bat of leadoff hitter Greg
Reliever Rick White retired Matt Williams and Steve Finley on
pop-ups, but McCracken lined an 0-1 pitch just out of reach of
right fielder J.D. Drew and off the base of the fence for an RBI
Fassero came on and got pinch hitter Mark Grace to fly out to
keep the game tied.
Schilling again pitched well in the postseson against St. Louis,
yielding a run and seven hits over seven innings with two walks
and seven strikeouts. His only mistake was an opposite-field
home run in the third by Drew, who also homered off Schilling in
last year's NLDS.
"I made my pitches for the most part. I made the pitch I wanted
to make in that situation, but I got beat on it," said
Schilling, who has given up just two runs in three playoff
starts vs. the Cardinals.