10/07/2002 00:29 am ET
Aurilia announces presence
Shortstop tallies homer, three runs, four RBIs in win
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- During the regular season, Rich Aurilia's mere presence in the Giants lineup translated to a win in 64 percent of those games, while San Francisco lost 20 of the 33 games he didn't start.
Now, the first thing you learn in Statistics 101 is that correlation is not causation, but having Aurilia in the lineup for Sunday's pivotal Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Braves certainly translated into a win for the Giants.
The shortstop went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and three runs scored, including the Giants' second of a two-run first that sparked an 8-3 victory to force a decisive Game 5 in Atlanta.
"It was very important [to score in the first] because you didn't want them to get on top and figure they are going to race to the finish line and beat us and clinch here in our home," said manager Dusty Baker. "It was very important for us to get on top, especially the way we did it. Kenny Lofton started it off [with a single] and then here comes Richie [with another single]."
After Aurilia's hit off losing pitcher Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent walked to load the bases for Barry Bonds. His sacrifice fly brought home Lofton and put Aurilia on third for Benito Santiago's broken-bat grounder to Vinny Castilla. The Braves' third baseman dodged the barrel and had no choice but to throw to first for the out, allowing Aurilia to score.
"I knew [Bonds' fly] was deep enough," said Aurilia. "I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but I knew it was deep enough for me to get to third base. ... We were fortunate that Benito didn't hit that ball hard enough to turn a double play and we scored a run."
Aurilia doubled off Glavine in Game 1 and clubbed a solo homer off Kevin Millwood in Game 2 before his 0-for-4 day against the Braves on Saturday. Despite his .154 NLDS average entering Sunday, he didn't profess to feeling off at the plate.
"I felt like I've swung the bat well all series," said Aurilia. "I've hit the ball hard, and just coming into today, I think with Glavine, there's a sense where you have to be patient, but at the same time, if he tries to get ahead of you early in the count, you've got to try to take advantage of it."
Aurilia singled with two outs in the second to drive home a run and scored when Glavine issued a bases-loaded walk
later in the inning, making the score 4-0.
"I think the key for today's game, like we did in Game 1, we had a lot of key two-out RBIs, guys driving in two-out [runs]," said Aurilia. "I know Benito had one (two counting the walk) and I had some. That was key for us."
Aurilia also delivered the final blow to Glavine, smacking a three-run homer to left in the third inning after Bell had walked and Lofton had knocked a two-out single.
"He got ahead of me with two strikes," Aurilia said. "I was two in the hole and I was just trying to put the ball in play the rest of the at-bat. I don't even know what the pitch was I hit. I don't know if it was a fastball or a changeup, but it was something probably about maybe
knee-high and I just reached down there and got it."
"It got us over the hump because we had a mountain to climb today," said Kent. "Scoring three runs in the middle of the ballgame there like we did against Glavine put us over the top. It's just a big confidence builder and it's downhill from there."
Still, Baker wasn't ready to breathe a sigh of relief, even with starter Livan Hernandez cruising and the Giants enjoying a 7-0 lead after three innings. Fittingly, the game ended on a ground ball to Aurilia after the Braves got two runners on base in the ninth inning.
"If you notice in these other games, the Yankees, the Angels, everybody, you're not confident until the final out because no team is ever going to concede a game," said Baker. "They are going to fight the entire game, and these guys [the Braves] have been here a whole bunch of times. You like the fact that you have the lead, but you are never really comfortable and confident until the game is over."
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.