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Lofton irritates Cards, produces win
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League Championship Series
10/10/2002 02:10 am ET 
Lofton irritates Cards, produces win
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com

Kenny Lofton sparked a benches-clearing incident during the fifth inning. (David J. Phillip/AP)
ST. LOUIS -- Running fast or moving slowly, San Francisco's Kenny Lofton irritated the Cardinals during Wednesday night's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

Lofton's 2-for-4 performance, which included a ham-it-up homer in the third inning that will be water cooler conversation, paced the Giants' 9-6 victory at Busch Stadium.

"I just do what I do," Lofton said. "I don't expect anything different. I go out there and play the game of baseball, and I'm having fun right now."

That fun usually doesn't include homers. Lofton, who ticked off the Cardinals by taking a couple of walking steps and admiring his solo shot, has just five homers in 52 playoff games.

Lofton further upset the Cardinals when he bailed out on and expressed anger over Mike Crudale's high-and-tight pitch in the fifth. The Cards said his overreaction caused the bench-clearing situation at home plate; the Giants said he reacted appropriately.

However, Lofton's actions during his previous two plate appearances before the homer better illustrated the way he gets under opponents' skin.

    Kenny Lofton   /   CF
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190
Bats/Throws: L/L

More info:
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Splits
Hit chart
Yankees site

Lofton drew a walk from Cards starter Matt Morris to open the game and scored the Giants' first run. After Morris opened the second with strikeouts of David Bell and Kirk Rueter, Lofton's single and steal of second ignited a four-run inning that left the Cardinals playing catch-up.

Lofton's homer only added to his mastery of Morris, who left after allowing seven runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Wednesday night improved Lofton to 7-for-15 (.467) against the Cardinals' ace.

It was the kind of performance the Giants expected when they acquired Lofton from the Chicago White Sox for a pair of minor leaguers shortly before the trading deadline.

"We know that Kenny is a big-time player," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "That's why we got Kenny when we did. We got him as soon as possible. Kenny has been great for us, offensively and defensively."

  Barry Bonds   /   LF
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 210
Bats/Throws: L/L

More info:
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Stats
Splits
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Giants site

"He's the leadoff hitter we needed. Every team needs a good leadoff hitter, they've got one over there in (Fernando) Vina," said Barry Bonds of Lofton. "We were able to keep him from getting on base, and that's the key, that's how they dominated Arziona. If you don't keep that guy off the base those other guys are going to kill you. Same thing with us, if you have a great leadoff hitter you've got a chance to win if he's getting on base."

Wednesday was the continuation of the lift that Lofton gave the Giants in the NL Division Series against Atlanta, when he batted .350 (7-for-20) with a .400 on-base percentage, and scored five runs. It was easily the best career series for Lofton, who is playing in the postseason for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.

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"First of all, I thought I would be (in the playoffs) with the White Sox but that didn't happen," Lofton said. "Once I had the opportunity to come over here, I was jumping up and down for it because this is something that I enjoy and something that guys want to play for."

A key beneficiary of Lofton's recent hot play is No. 2 hitter Rich Aurilia, who drove in seven runs against Atlanta and went 1-for-4 with an RBI Wednesday. Lofton's steal of second, and his taking off for third and opening an infield hole, handed Aurilia his RBI on a single.

    Rich Aurilia   /   SS
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 189
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Stats
Splits
Hit chart
Mariners site

Aurilia also said Lofton has made him a more diversified player.

"Kenny's done a great job in the postseason for us, getting on base, hitting the ball, getting his walks and stealing bases," Aurilia said. "I've almost become your prototypical No. 2 hitter where I've never seen myself as that before.

"He got on tonight and I was given the bunt sign to get him over (in the first inning) and that's fine. Anytime you can score runs in the postseason is great. With him on the bases, you might as well take advantage."

If Lofton irritates the opponent in the process, so be it.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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