<
>

Santiago's homer puts Giants on the brink

10/14/2002

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The strategy against the San Francisco Giants is simple: Don't let Barry Bonds beat you.

No problem, Bonds' teammates say. We'll do it ourselves.

Benito Santiago followed an unconventional intentional walk to
Bonds with a tiebreaking two-run homer with two outs in the eighth
inning, leading San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis
Cardinals on Sunday night in Game 4 of the NL championship series.

"I was so excited they walked Barry Bonds,'' Santiago said. "I
wanted them to pay again.''

Bonds, who scored the tying and go-ahead runs, is now one win
away from his first trip to the World Series.

He scored both runs after walks, as Santiago and J.T. Snow came
through with the big hits.

"If they walk him, then they want to be beaten not by the best
but by someone else,'' Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia said.
"Tonight it was Benito.''

Bonds' brilliance has made the unheard of routine --
intentionally putting the tying or go-ahead run on base.

The move failed for Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

"Strategy is judged on whether it works. So it didn't work. Bad
strategy,'' La Russa said.

Robb Nen nearly blew it in the ninth, throwing a third-strike
wild pitch to the leadoff hitter and allowing a one-out RBI single
by Jim Edmonds.

But with runners on first and third, Nen recovered to strike out
Albert Pujols and J.D. Drew for his third save in the series.

"I had to get the strikeouts,'' Nen said. "I knew if I made my
pitch, I could get them.''

The Giants can win their first NL pennant in 13 years with a win
at home Monday night and set up baseball's first all wild-card
World Series. Anaheim won the AL championship earlier Sunday.

Game 1 winner Kirk Rueter will pitch the fifth game for the
Giants against Matt Morris.

With two outs and nobody on in the eighth, Bonds strolled to the
plate and La Russa never hesitated, putting four fingers in the air
for an intentional walk.

"Bonds is the most dangerous hitter in the game right now, and
it's tough to walk in that clubhouse with giving him a chance to
get the hit to beat you,'' La Russa said. "Santiago has been very
tough, but it's a little easier to take.''

Santiago has revived his career after a life-threatening car
accident nearly ended it in 1998. He has 11 RBI this postseason,
often coming through after Bonds has been walked.

With a sellout crowd of 42,676 pounding their orange
ThunderStix, Santiago worked the count full.

He then drove a pitch from Rick White into the left-field seats.
Santiago pumped his fist and tossed his bat away before rounding
the bases.

"I was looking for that type of pitch. He got me out with that
pitch. I guessed right this time,'' Santiago said.

Bonds pumped his fist repeatedly on his way home -- his long wait
for a chance to perform on baseball's biggest stage just one game
away.

Bonds had never won a postseason series before this year, losing
all five tries -- partly because of his own struggles. He hit .196
with one home run and six RBI in 97 at-bats in his first five
postseason trips, hardly the numbers of baseball's best player.

This season, he has risen to the occasion with four homers and
nine RBI in October. But his threat proved to be the biggest
contribution of all, setting up the game-winning hit.

"All year, they've walked Barry and we backed him up,'' Nen
said. "Because of him, we're here.''

Bonds didn't talk after the game.

Tim Worrell got the final two outs of the eighth for the win to
set up the tense ninth for Nen. The Cardinals were 2-for-17 with
runners in scoring position with the biggest outs coming in the
ninth.

"I didn't do my job,'' Pujols said. "We left a lot of runners
on base.''

Giants starter Livan Hernandez, who brought a 6-0 career
postseason record and boasts of his perfection into the game, gave
up two runs in the first but held the Cardinals at bay after that.

He was relieved by Felix Rodriguez with one out in the sixth and
a runner on second base. Rodriguez retired Edmonds on a grounder
and Pujols on a flyout.

Cardinals starter Andy Benes, who was pitching underhanded to
kindergartners in June as he contemplated retirement, shut out
Bonds and the Giants on two hits through five innings.

La Russa let Benes bat with two on and two outs in the top of
the sixth and the pitcher grounded out.

The decision proved costly. Benes walked Jeff Kent with one out
before throwing four straight balls to Bonds -- none even close to
the strike zone.

La Russa pulled Benes for White, who struck out Santiago. Snow
then hit a 1-0 pitch off the wall in left-center for a two-run
double and Bonds stomped on home plate as he scored the tying run.

"People make such a big deal of Barry not getting pitches and
being walked,'' Snow said. "Guys in the middle of the order or at
the bottom feel like someone's going to get a base hit somewhere.''

The Cardinals scored first for the first time this series.

Fernando Vina hit the first pitch of the game into the gap in
left-center for a double. Vina later scored on Edmonds' one-out
grounder, but Hernandez got in trouble when he hit Pujols in the
back with a pitch.

Pujols glared out at the mound -- but no one left the dugout, as
in Game 1. Drew followed with a single and Tino Martinez blooped
another single down the left-field line for his first RBI of the
postseason.

Once again, 5-year-old Kannon Kile romped around the Cardinals'
dugout during the game. The son of late St. Louis pitcher Darryl
Kile has been a source of motivation to the team.

Game notes
The Giants have scored 14 of their 21 runs in the series
with two outs. ... The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes so
Fox could show the end of the ALCS.