Late-inning rallies are a sign of a team that doesn't give up. Last year St. Louis was 2-79 when it trailed after eight innings. At week's end, the Cardinals had already won three games when they were behind through eight.
Rookie outfielders Bernard Gilkey and Ray Lankford have given St. Louis a spark, as has rightfielder Felix Jose, who was acquired in the McGee trade. Jose was hitting .313 through Sunday. Todd Zeile has emerged as one of the best hitting third basemen in the league, despite having to make the move from catcher to a new position.
In addition, a couple of old guys are lending a steady hand. First baseman Pedro Guerrero, 34, is still a quality RBI man, and reliever Lee Smith, 33, has been all but unhittable. He has saved 25 or more games in each of the last eight seasons. At week's end he was 2-1 and 9 for 10 in save tries this year. He has even pitched the equivalent of a perfect game, retiring 27 straight hitters in eight appearances from April 14 through 30. "You can't be better, or even as good, as Lee's been," says Torre.
St. Louis has yet to play the Pirates or the Mets, so it's far too early to say whether the Cardinals can keep up this pace. But even when they lose, they go down trying. "You can see a glow in these guy's eyes," says Bryn Smith, 35. "I don't feel old around here. They put the excitement back in you. It makes you believe you can win. I get good butterflies again. It's neat jumping around with these guys."
A Giant Dilemma
San Francisco manager Roger Craig is a master juggler of pitchers, but he has run out of ways to help his stumbling staff, particularly the starters. When healthy, the Giants' pitching is average at best, but injuries have turned the staff into one of the worst in the majors. At week's end San Francisco had the highest ERA (4.38) in the National League, and the Giants were in last place in the West with a 9-15 record.
"I read where the A's used the same starting rotation all last summer, and I used 26 pitchers last year," says Craig. "I've tried everything, except pitching myself. I went out to the mound the other day, and [second baseman] Robby Thompson said, 'Did you bring your glove?' The pitching is really worrying me. We just don't have one big guy—like [the Mets' Dwight] Gooden—to stop a losing streak."
Dodger centerfielder Brett Butler, a former Giant, concurs. "When John Burkett is your number one pitcher, and you've got to pitch him on three days rest, it's got to be tough," said Butler.
Things got tougher for San Francisco when Rick Reuschel, 41, went on the disabled list two weeks ago with an injured left knee. The day before, Scott Garrelts had gone on the DL with an injured right elbow. Craig yanked another veteran, Mike LaCoss, from the rotation on May 1 after LaCoss allowed 11 runs in three innings in his two most recent starts.
Other pitchers who were being counted on to help have struggled. Trevor Wilson hasn't developed as quickly as San Francisco had hoped he would, and Bud Black, the $2.5 million-a-year free-agent acquisition who had an 83-82 career record going into this season, was 2-3 at week's end. So the search for new arms continues. Even with their tremendous hitting, the Giants can't challenge for the division title unless they significantly improve their pitching.