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St. Louis still vying for home-field advantage

9/28/2002

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Chuck Finley's 200th career victory wasn't the
first thing he thought about Saturday.

"I'm more excited about going to the playoffs,'' he said after
leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1.
"It's probably something in the offseason that I'll enjoy but,
obviously, it was a big game for us. It meant something, so that's
good.''

Scott Rolen hit a two-run homer for the NL Central champions,
who have won 20 of their last 24 and will open the postseason
Tuesday against Arizona.

Going into the final day of the regular season, they remained
one game behind Diamondbacks in the competition for home-field
advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

On Sunday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is starting Andy
Benes instead of Jamey Wright in the regular-season finale. Benes
pitched seven shutout innings against Arizona on Tuesday.

"The best scenario would have been if the game, win or lose,
didn't matter,'' Benes said, "but it's an opportunity for me.''

If the Diamondbacks and Cardinals finish with identical records,
the Cardinals would get home-field advantage based on their 4-2
record in head-to-head play.

"It's always an advantage, with the fans we have and the way
we've played this year at this park, not having to get on a plane
and travel would be huge,'' Finley said. "We've already been here
for 10 days so that would be something great for us.''

Rolen was 0-for-4 and struck out with runners on first and third
in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss Friday, several hours after
agreeing to a $90 million, eight-year contract extension.

"Yesterday was a little hectic,'' he said. "The whole press
conference thing, that's not my cup of tea. Today I came in and
felt a little more comfortable, a little more relaxed, and
concentrated a little better.''

The Brewers tied a franchise record with their 55th road loss,
matching the mark set in 1970, their first season in Milwaukee.
They're 25-55 away from Miller Park.

"It doesn't matter where you play, you have to win,'' pitcher
Glendon Rusch said. "Period.''

Finley (7-4) allowed one run and two hits in six innings with
seven strikeouts and two walks.

Finley, scheduled to start Game 2 of the playoffs following Matt
Morris in the opener, won his last two starts to become the 101st
pitcher to reach to 200 victories. His only problem came in the
third, when Jim Rushford hit a leadoff bloop double and scored on
Ronnie Belliard's one-out groundout.

Rolen hit his 31st homer off Glendon Rusch (10-16) after Albert
Pujols walked to lead off the second. Pujols had an RBI double in
the fifth for a 3-1 lead.

Pujols has 127 RBI, one behind NL leader Lance Berkman, with
one game to play. Last year's NL Rookie of the Year already is
assured of becoming the first player in major league history to
begin his career with two seasons with a .300 average, 30 homers,
100 runs and 100 RBI.

Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his 32nd save in 37
chances.

Rusch threw 96 pitches in five innings, allowing three runs and
four hits.

"Rusch got to a high pitch count again, which has been his
M.O.,'' manager Jerry Royster said. "I think he's happy with what
he's done and with the way he picked up his season.''

The Brewers again held out Jose Hernandez, who's one strikeout
from tying the major league record of 189, set by Bobby Bonds in
1970. Hernandez has missed the last three games.

Game notes
Rolen has 31 homers and 110 RBI, matching his season bests
from 1998, when he was with the Phillies. ... The Cardinals are 9-7
against the Brewers. ... The Brewers haven't homered off a
left-hander since they hit three off the Cubs' Steve Smyth in a
Sept. 2 doubleheader opener. ... Brewers pitchers have given up at
least one homer in eight of the last nine games. They're 33-79 when
the staff gives up a home run.