But an injury to Scott Rolen dampened the Cardinals' 2-1 triumph
over the Diamondbacks on Thursday.
''A split would have been good for us,'' said Chuck Finley, who
blanked Arizona for 6 1/3 innings. ''Obviously, coming out of here
2-0 looks very, very good. This is what we dreamed of doing.''
Rolen left after he was clipped in the left side by pinch-runner
Alex Cintron while scooping up a grounder in the seventh inning.
X-rays were negative, and the preliminary diagnosis was a sprained
shoulder. Further tests were scheduled for Friday in St. Louis.
''I do think that his continuing to play for sure in this series
is very questionable,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ''We'll have
our fingers crossed through tomorrow, but I think there's a chance
he might have played his last game (this year).''
The Diamondbacks, who had trailed 1-0 since the third inning on
J.D. Drew's two-out homer off Schilling, tied it with an unearned
run in the eighth.
With the late Darryl Kile's widow Flynn again in the stands, as
she was for the opener Tuesday night, the inspired Cardinals moved
within a victory of returning to the National League Championship Series for the
second time in three seasons.
''They're the world champions and will keep fighting until the
end,'' the Cardinals' Fernando Vina said, ''but it will be a nice
flight back to St. Louis.''
After enduring the death of Kile and longtime broadcaster Jack
Buck during the season, St. Louis can complete the first-round
sweep with a victory at Busch Stadium on Saturday. Miguel Batista
pitches for the Diamondbacks against Andy Benes.
Finley, two months shy of his 40th birthday, held Arizona to
four hits innings before leaving with a muscle cramp in his
Acquired from Cleveland on July 19, Finley went 7-4 with the
Cardinals. The left-hander had been 0-2 in the postseason coming
in, losing twice to Seattle in the first round last year.
''You can't give him enough credit,'' La Russa said. ''The first
couple of innings, he made great pitches, then he pitched even
better. He showed up so big for us.''
The Cardinals pelted Johnson for 10 hits in a 12-2 rout Tuesday
night. Schilling, who had struggled in his last seven starts,
proved a much tougher challenge. He scattered seven hits, struck
out seven and walked one.
''Sometimes you do your job and still get beat,'' he said.
Even the 2-2 pitch that Drew hit into the left-field seats was a
''That was not your typical hanging home run pitch,''
Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said. ''It was a fastball down
around the knees.''
Catcher Damian Miller called it ''a perfect pitch.''
''It was down and away, maybe off the plate a little bit and
below the knees,'' Miller said. ''It probably wasn't even a strike,
but J.D.'s a pretty good hitter.''
Drew had one of two three-run homers off Schilling last week in
Arizona's 6-1 defeat in St. Louis, but struck out in his first at-bat
''That pitch was one I had used to get him out several times,''
A year ago, Schilling beat the Cardinals 1-0 in his first
division series start. In Game 5, Drew's eighth-inning homer off
Schilling tied the score 1-1, but Arizona advanced on Tony Womack's run-scoring single in the ninth.
Schilling, 27-3 in the regular season, escaped a jam in the
seventh inning Thursday.
Mike Matheny singled with one out, then was forced at second on
Finley's sacrifice attempt. That brought up Vina, who was hit in
the leg near the strike zone while attempting to bunt. Vina got
into a heated argument with plate umpire Bill Miller, who ordered
the runner back to first, and Vina singled on the next pitch,
putting runners at the corners. Schilling walked Drew on four
pitches, loading the bases, then struck out Jim Edmonds to the
cheers of the capacity crowd.
Renteria, the hero of Game 7 for Florida in the 1997 World
Series and persistent troublemaker against Arizona, led off the
ninth with a single, then was sacrificed to second.
Cairo, who had entered during a double-switch an inning earlier,
singled up the middle.
''I'm blessed right now,'' Cairo said. ''I'm in the best
organization in baseball. They have been treating me so well. To
get that base hit makes it much better. What a beautiful day today
Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect ninth for the save. Vina
was 4-for-5, making him 7-for-11 in the series.
Chad Moeller, pinch-hitting for Schilling with two outs in the
seventh, singled and Womack walked. Cintron then replaced
Moeller as a pinch runner.
Junior Spivey hit a grounder to Rolen at third. As Rolen picked
up the ball, Cintron caught the third baseman's shoulder with a
knee. The collision knocked off Rolen's glove and sent him spinning
to the ground. Cintron was called out for interference.
The roof was closed at Bank One Ballpark, even though it
was 74 degrees outside at game time. The reason given by Major
League Baseball was comfort of fans whose seats would have been in
the sun. ... Arizona's Luis Gonzalez threw out the ceremonial first
pitch, three days after surgery to repair his separated left
shoulder. ... Drew plans surgery on his right knee after the