On the road again
Cardinals win finale, lose home-field advantage in playoffsPosted: Sunday September 29, 2002 5:33 PM
Updated: Sunday September 29, 2002 8:43 PM
Renteria's one-out double in the eighth inning Sunday drove in the first run of a game the Cardinals won 4-0.
"If we all voted in this clubhouse, he'd get a lot of votes for our MVP," manager Tony La Russa said.
Despite the victory, the Cardinals did not get home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. They will take on Arizona, starting Tuesday night at Phoenix.
The Diamondbacks beat Colorado 11-8 to get the home field. If they had lost, Arizona and St. Louis would've finished with the same record -- and the Cardinals would have held the tiebreaker.
Renteria led NL shortstops with 82 RBIs (he also had one as a pinch-hitter) and batted .372 with runners in scoring position. Overall, he hit .305.
The Cardinals' 97 victories were their most since winning 101 in 1985, when the lost the World Series 4-3 to Kansas City.
St. Louis received a scare when starter Andy Benes was forced to leave. It originally was announced that Benes had discomfort in his arthritic right knee. But Benes said he felt a twinge in his back during the third inning, and another as he was batting in the fifth. He said he would be fine for the playoffs, though manager Tony La Russa hasn't decided if Benes will get a start.
Benes pitched five shutout innings, fanning Ryan Christenson to end the fifth for his 2,000th career strikeout. Benes received a long standing ovation as the milestone was acknowledged on the scoreboard when he led off the bottom of the fifth.
But on a 1-0 count, Benes took what appeared to be an awkward swing. La Russa and a trainer came out and, after a long discussion, Benes walked to the dugout.
The troublesome knee had Benes briefly flirting with retirement early this season. In May, he was winless with a 10.80 ERA when it appeared he would call it a career.
Days later, he decided to give it another chance and went on the disabled list.
Since his return on July 16, Benes has been among the National League's best pitchers, going 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA. His overall ERA dropped to 2.78. He didn't give up a run in his last 17 innings.
Since his midseason return, Benes has developed an improved slider and learned a split-fingered fastball from Chuck Finley, who came to St. Louis in a July 20 deal with Cleveland.
"Before, if I got behind on the count they could sit on one pitch," Benes said. "Now, they have to watch for the splitter, the slider or the fastball."
La Russa has said that Matt Morris will pitch Game 1 against Arizona, with Finley pitching Game 2. With Woody Williams mending from a ribcage injury, La Russa has not speculated on the playoff rotation beyond that.
After Benes left, relievers Dave Veres, Mike Crudale and Rick White shut out Milwaukee on one hit. Crudale (3-0) pitched the eighth and got the win.
Wayne Franklin shut out the Cardinals on one hit and six walks through seven innings. His no-hit bid ended with Scott Rolen's sixth-inning leadoff single.
"You have to give our guy credit," Brewers manager Jerry Royster said. "To throw a no-hitter when they needed to win to get home-field advantage says a lot about Franklin."
"I hope they do that every time," said Pujols, whose 127 RBIs were second in the league to Lance Berkman's 128. "That's the wrong guy to pitch to in that situation."
Milwaukee finished 56-106, easily the worst record in the 34-year history of the franchise.
Jose Hernandez did not play again and came up one short of the season strikeout record of 189, set by Bobby Bonds in 1970. Hernandez played in just three of the Brewer's final 11 games and did not play in the four-game series in St. Louis.
Notes: Renteria's two RBIs gave him 82 as a shortstop, tying a
Cardinals shortstop record set by Doc Lavan in 1921. ... Richie
Sexson needed one home run to reach 30 for the fourth straight
year, but did not play. ... J.D. Drew, who did not play Sunday, has
struck out 104 times in 424 at-bats, the highest percentage on the
Cardinals. ... The Brewers were 9-72 in games in which they scored
three runs or fewer.