10/10/2002 00:27 am ET
Giants-Cardinals: The big picture
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
The Cardinals finally found out what losing feels like this postseason, as the Giants handed St. Louis its first loss after the three-game sweep of Arizona in the Division Series.
Seeing ace Matt Morris battered around in a 9-6 defeat certainly wasn't comforting for the Redbirds, who may need the right-hander to pitch three times this National League Championship Series, but the offense showed a never-say-die spirit that has to give the Cardinals hope.
St. Louis knows that a break here or there and it could be the team with a 1-0 series lead. The Cardinals vexed the Giants' pitchers by getting at least one runner in every single inning, and they matched the 11-hit output of San Francisco. They even forced the Giants to use closer Robb Nen by getting as close as three runs after falling behind by six.
But that early lead posted by the Giants withstood the Cardinals' attack, and San Francisco got what it wanted: a win in St. Louis to assume home-field advantage. No matter what happens in Game 2, the Giants can avoid returning to the boisterous Busch Stadium by winning all their games at Pacific Bell Park.
Much like the Cardinals, the Giants win games when they get contributions up and down the lineup, as they did Wednesday. San Francisco got six straight hits in the four-run second, all with two out. In fact, eight of the Giants' runs scored with two out, something they struggled to do many times during the regular season.
Every position player except for Reggie Sanders, recorded at least one hit, and that made it easier to absorb Kirk Rueter's high-wire act. The lefty rebounded from his awful start in the Division Series, but he did allow five runs in five innings and was one big hit away from disaster throughout the night.
Still, that's how the far-from-overpowering Rueter has won a lot of games throughout his career, and he pitched just well enough to retain his perfect record in St. Louis. His next start would likely be Game 5 in San Francisco, where he went 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA this season.
The Cardinals, like just about everyone in baseball, have no clue how to handle Barry Bonds. Walk him, and Benito Santiago has proven he can make you pay, as he did twice Wednesday with an RBI single and a two-run homer. Allow Bonds to hit, and he can obviously do the kind of damage he did with a two-run triple in the second.
The teams also added a splash of bad blood with the bench-clearing pushing match following Kenny Lofton's umbrage at an inside pitch, adding another intriguing subplot to the series.
Taking Game 1 obviously is a boost for the Giants, but the way both teams played Wednesday, this series likely will be a long, hard-fought battle.
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.