ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Miguel Cairo turned an understudy role
into a moment in the spotlight.
Cairo, filling in for the injured Scott Rolen, went 3-for-3 with
two runs scored and two RBI as the St. Louis Cardinals posted a
6-3 triumph over the Arizona Diamondbacks, completing a
three-game Division Series sweep of the defending world
With Rolen likely sidelined until the World Series with a
shoulder injury, Cairo - who delivered the decisive hit in Game
Two - got the start Saturday. Despite hitting just .250 during
the season, he justified manager Tony La Russa's faith.
Cairo had an RBI single in the second inning, was hit by a pitch
and scored in the fourth, beat out an infield hit in the sixth
and drove in an insurance run in the eighth with a double - the
Cardinals' lone extra-base hit.
"When I got here, I saw my name in the lineup and I was
surprised because sometimes (La Russa) goes with (Eli) Marrero
in the outfield," Cairo said. "I just tried to relax, take it
like another regular-season game and just go out there and have
fun. And that's what I did."
"It's amazing that he was able to do as much as he did - three
hits and a hit batsman where he ended up scoring," Cardinals
starter Andy Benes said. "He's been good for us all year, he's
a great player and he rose to the occasion tonight."
The win is the latest success in an emotionally trying season
for the Cardinals, who overcame the June deaths of veteran
righthander Darryl Kile and legendary broadcaster Jack Buck. St.
Louis advanced to the League Championship Series for the second
time in three years and avenged a heartbreaking loss to the
Diamondbacks in last year's Division Series.
"They're the world champs and they're a class act all the way
around," St. Louis second baseman Fernando Vina said. "They
beat us last year and they crushed us. This year, we wanted to
go out and win and prove something. And we did."
Last year, Arizona got by St. Louis in the first round and
eventually outlasted the New York Yankees in seven games in the
World Series. But Arizona was put in hole when aces Randy
Johnson and Curt Schilling failed to win either of the first two
games of this series and never got the offense going in the
absence of injured slugger Luis Gonzalez.
"You have to congratulate the Cardinals, they outplayed us,"
Arizona first baseman Mark Grace said. "I can accept that.
They were just too strong for us these three games."
St. Louis got 4 2/3 erratic innings from Benes, but its bullpen
turned in a stellar effort as Jeff Fassero (2-0), Rick White,
Steve Kline and Jason Isringhausen allowed two hits the rest of
the way. Isringhausen picked up his second save of the series
while Fassero appeared in all three games.
After Johnson took the loss in Game One and the offense deserted
Schilling in Game Two, Brenly turned to Miguel Batista, who was
masterful in beating St. Louis in Game Three last year. But
Batista (0-1) was tagged for four runs and five hits in 3 2/3
David Dellucci, one of the players seeing increased time in the
absence of Gonzalez, got Arizona off to a quick start with a
two-run homer in the second.
"It was a spark for us, one that we hoped to capitalize off of,"
Dellucci said. "It was good for us to come out and score runs
early, they've been tough to come by. To get two in the second
inning felt pretty good. But they shut it down after that and
they did some scoring of their own, and it's tough to keep
plugging when a team answers right back."
St. Louis got back a run in the second on a two-out single by
Cairo that scored Albert Pujols. Vina, who had nine hits in the
series, got the Cardinals going in the third as he singled and
scored on Pujols' two-out base hit.
St. Louis took the lead for good in the fourth. Batista hit
Cairo with one out and Mike Matheny's single left runners on the
corners. Benes got down a squeeze to produce the go-ahead run
and Vina followed with an RBI single to make it 4-2.
La Russa pulled Benes and the move nearly backfired as Steve
Finley greeted Fassero with a single to left. But Pujols made a
strong throw to the plate to nail the slow-footed Donnels.
"I knew it was hit hard enough for him to make a play," Fassero
said. "I turned around and I see the ball's there and he's
about halfway down. I go, `OK we've got him. All Mike has to
do is catch the ball.' From what I've seen behind the plate, he
doesn't miss too many balls."
Arizona got a two-out single by Quinton McCracken in the sixth,
but that was its last runner to reach.
The final straw for the Diamondbacks may have been closer
Byung-Hyun Kim's performance in the eighth. Trying to keep the
deficit at one run, Kim walked Pujols to open the inning but
got the next two batters. Cairo came through with a two-strike
double to extend St. Louis' lead to 5-3.
Matheny was intentionally walked and pinch hitter Kerry Robinson
singled in Cairo. Kim, who has had trouble in big spots,
walked Vina before retiring J.D. Drew on a flyout.
The Diamondbacks managed just six runs and hit .184 in the
series. Their three starting pitchers lasted a total of 16 2/3
innings and surrendered 11 runs.
"It seems like every time we did something, they answered right
back," Dellucci said. "We scored two runs early and the sign of
a championship team is a team that comes back, shuts the door
and scores runs of their own. And they did that. I commend
them; they have a tremendous team and I think that's the team
over there that's going to win the World Series."
"We just weren't able to find a groove," Spivey added. "You
have to tip your hat to their pitching staff because they didn't
really give us really anything good to hit. They need a great
job of just keeping everyone off-balance and not giving in to
St. Louis has swept three of its last four Division Series.
"I love this time of year," Vina said. "This is the time of
year you get fired up. The excitement, the blood flowing, what
it means to win games in October, and I get excited for it."