Playoff Series: Game 3 of 5

San Francisco won 4-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 9
San Francisco 9Final
St. Louis 6
Game 2: Thursday, October 10
San Francisco 4Final
St. Louis 1
Game 3: Saturday, October 12
St. Louis 5Final
San Francisco 4
Game 4: Sunday, October 13
St. Louis 3Final
San Francisco 4
Game 5: Monday, October 14
St. Louis 1Final
San Francisco 2

    4:20 PM ET, October 12, 2002

    AT&T Park, San Francisco, California 

    123456789 R H E
    STL 002111000 5 - -
    SF 010030000 4 - -

    W: C. Finley (1-0)

    L: J. Witasick (0-1)

    S: J. Isringhausen (1)

    Marrero's solo shot neutralizes Bonds

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Kannon Kile hopped around the field, giving low-fives to his dad's former teammates.

    The 5-year-old leaped into Fernando Vina's arms and then ran toward the plate, sliding home in his clean, white St. Louis uniform.

    Game 3 at a glance
    The Giants had tied the game up in the bottom of the fifth when Barry Bonds cracked a three-run homer, but Eli Marrero led off the sixth with a homer of his own to give the Cards a 5-4 lead.

    One bad pitch. But that's all it took for Jay Witasick to be tagged with this label and the loss for the game after giving up the homer to Marrero. The postseason isn't Witasick's favorite time of the year. He was pitching for the Yankees in Game 6 of the World Series last year when he was tagged for nine runs and 10 hits in 1 1/3 innings in relief.

    Key move
    Tony La Russa's decision to start Marrero in left field, which in turn moved Albert Pujols to third base and super-sub Miguel Cairo back to the bench. Hey, Marrero hit the game-winning homer. Kudos to La Russa.

    Key stat
    The Giants left a total of 11 runners on base, including the bases loaded in the first, second and seventh innings.

    Key stat II
    Reggie Sanders is 4-for-46 lifetime in the NLCS, including 0-for-13 this year.

    Looking ahead
    Andy Benes will get the start in Game 4 for the Cardinals. He allowed three runs -- all earned -- in 4 2/3 innings in the Cards' Division Series-clinching win over Arizona. In his final three regular-season starts, he allowed only one run in 18 innings pitched. Livan Hernandez will start for the Giants. After tying for the NL lead in losses (16) during the regular season, Hernandez came through with a gem in Game 4 of the Division Series against the Braves, allowing three runs in 8 1/3 innings. He's 6-0 career in the postseason.

    A Cardinals victory was secured and their season once again saved as they held the San Francisco Giants at bay -- barely.

    Three St. Louis homers that just cleared the wall behind Barry Bonds in left field overcame his own prodigious shot into McCovey Cove and gave the Cardinals a 5-4 victory Saturday that cut San Francisco's lead to 2-1 in the NL championship series.

    St. Louis endured a traumatic season with Darryl Kile's death in June. The pitcher has served as an inspiration ever since, with his jersey hanging in the dugout -- and now his son providing an emotional lift to the Cardinals throughout the game.

    "It was very special having him out there,'' Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny said. "It was very special I'm sure for him and for us.''

    Matheny and Jim Edmonds hit solo homers that helped St. Louis shake off some early jitters and take a 4-1 lead. Eli Marrero then connected for a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning in St. Louis' first at-bat after Bonds' blast.

    After losing the first two games at home, the Cardinals avoided falling into a hole that no team in baseball has ever overcome.

    "We had to win this game today to make it a series,'' manager Tony La Russa said. "If you go down 3-0, it would be really tough. We made it a competitive series. But they're still in charge.''

    The Cardinals preserved the narrow lead with clutch relief, getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh. Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for the save, pitching around a one-out walk to Bonds.

    "We weren't going to give him a chance to be another god in the ninth,'' Isringhausen said.

    Game 4 is Sunday, with San Francisco's Livan Hernandez pitching against Andy Benes.

    There was a high-flying air show by the Blue Angels, which soared above the ballpark in their F/A-18 Hornets, leaving vapor trails as the players stopped and marveled at one point.

    But the game provided more than enough entertainment for an energetic sellout crowd of 42,177 at Pacific Bell Park.

    The most exciting moment came when Bonds walked to the plate with two runners on and the Giants trailing 4-1 in the fifth inning.

    After taking a first-pitch ball from winning pitcher Chuck Finley, Bonds connected with his maple bat, hitting a drive to right field. He tossed his bat aside and raised his arms to the sky as the ball sailed into San Francisco Bay for the first splash homer in postseason history.

    "It changes the mood in the dugout,'' Bonds said. "It gets everybody fired up. But then they came back and took the lead.''

    The ball was quickly scooped up by a fan in a small boat with a net as Bonds rounded the bases and kissed his son as he crossed home plate.

    Bonds' fourth postseason homer this year and fifth of his career caught nearly everyone's attention. Some of the Minnesota Twins watched the at-bat as they took batting practice down the coast in Anaheim before Game 4 of the ALCS.

    Kannon Kile

    Kannon Kile celebrates the Cardinals' win with a high-five to Jason Isringhausen.

    The homer was just the second Finley had allowed to a lefty in his past 62 starts. But then again, Bonds is no normal lefty.

    "I didn't see him hit it, he hit it so hard,'' Finley said. "I only knew it was a home run when he threw his arms up.''

    After Marrero's homer down the left-field line off losing pitcher Jay Witasick gave the Cardinals the lead, they didn't let Bonds beat them his next time up, walking him intentionally with a runner on second.

    The move, which put the go-ahead run on base, prompted the chicken dance to be shown on the center-field scoreboard and the fans to boo.

    "I'm just trying to figure out our best chance to win the game,'' La Russa said. "I think it makes sense.''

    Benito Santiago then hit a slow roller under Dave Veres' glove for an infield single to load the bases. Veres struck out Reggie Sanders and Steve Kline retired J.T. Snow on a groundout -- the third time the Giants left the bases loaded. San Francisco stranded 11 runners overall.

    "We just couldn't get that big hit today,'' Giants manager Dusty Baker said.

    Both teams looked discombobulated early with wild throws, miscommunications and blunders in the field leading to early runs.

    Finley overcame two misplays in the first. Shortstop Edgar Renteria committed an error and Vina forgot to cover second base on a force. But Finley retired Sanders with the bases loaded to end the inning as the Cardinals escaped a near collision between Vina and Edmonds in center.

    "We just didn't capitalize on what was given to us today,'' Rich Aurilia said.

    The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second on Aurilia's sacrifice fly after neither Finley nor third baseman Albert Pujols tried to field a bunt by Ortiz that loaded the bases.

    San Francisco then loaded the bases with two outs for Bonds, but the slugger just missed and popped up a ball to right field. Bonds clapped his hands in disgust at the missed chance.

    "I was fortunate to make a good enough pitch to pop him up,'' Finley said. "That could have been the game right there.''

    Vina almost collided with J.D. Drew this time, prompting a conference of Cardinals that started on the field and continued in the dugout between innings.

    "We weren't playing the best defense we could play,'' Matheny said. "Chuck did a great job keeping his composure giving us a chance because things could have gotten ugly.''

    St. Louis capitalized on a third-strike wild pitch by Ortiz and Lofton misjudging Vina's line-drive double to center to score two runs in the third and take their first lead of the series.

    Matheny's first homer since April 26 -- a span of 279 at-bats -- made it 3-1 in the fourth.

    In the fifth, Edmonds hit the first ball of the day into McCovey Cove, but it was just foul down the right-field line. He then hit the next pitch over Bonds' head in left.

    Game notes

    The 13 homers in the series are tied for the most in NLCS history. ... The Giants have scored in the first or second inning in 16 straight games. ... The Cardinals had lost nine of 10 NLCS games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press