10/10/2002 7:20 pm ET
The great debate in St. Louis
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The conversation at Mike Shannon's Steak and Seafood on Thursday was all about the Cardinals, and the fans were more than a little nervous.
"We never thought we'd lose the first game to the Giants," said Kent Richard of St. Louis. "We had home field. We had three days off. And we had Matt Morris going."
But the home field and time off didn't seem to matter, and Morris was nervous and had his worst outing of the season as the Cardinals lost 9-6 on Wednesday night. That set up a very important Game 2 on Thursday night before the series shifts to San Francisco's Pacific Bell Park for three games starting Saturday.
"We have to win tonight because the Giants will probably win two of three out there," Richard said. "If we don't win tonight, it's over."
At that point, Robby Jenkins of Belleville, Ill., looked up from his ribeye sandwich and onion straws (extra ketchup), and injected more reality into the wounded area.
"And how long can Woody Williams go (tonight) after being off for three weeks?" Jenkins said. "There's no guarantee he's going to be healthy or sharp. Even if he is, he only goes five innings, six tops. That leaves it up to the bullpen to get (Jeff) Kent and (Barry) Bonds out. We may never get the game to Izzy (Jason Isringhausen)."
Jenkins and Richard had never met but they shared Cardinals concerns as if they were old childhood pals.
"What does it say that (manager Tony) La Russa put Woody in the rotation ahead of (Chuck) Finley and (Andy) Benes?" Richard asked.
"It says he's not sure about Finley, who has been up and down, and that Benes didn't pitch that well in the third game (of the NLDS)," Jenkins answered.
"Well, I'm not sure about La Russa," said Jason Wright, of St. Louis, who jumped in on the conversation while downing an adult beverage. "I wish he'd just pick three starters and go with them. It seems to work for the Yankees in the past."
The impromptu roundtable discussion was so intense at this point, that no one noticed that former Pirate/Cardinal/Met/White Sock/Oriole/Dodger/Marlin/Brave Bobby Bonilla had just strolled by. He had a Cardinals cap and was quickly on the phone, probably with his old Pirate pal Bonds.
"We've got to walk Bonds the rest of the series," Jenkins said. "A lot of teams did that throughout the season and it didn't hurt them. What did he walk, nearly 200 times?
"But (Benito) Santiago is playing like he's 27 again and even David Bell hit a home run last night," Wright added. "You can't just assume Bonds is going to hit a home run every time up and just give him first base."
At that point, every Cardinal fan in the place fired back: "Yes, you can!!!"
"We walked him in the first inning last night and he didn't score," Jenkins said. "Then, we didn't walk him with two outs in the second, and he hit a two-run triple. I say put him on every time and we'll take our chances with Santiago, (J.T.) Snow, (Reggie) Sanders and (David) Bell."
Richard jumped back into the mix and put the pressure completely on the Cardinals.
"The Giants are going to score their runs," he said. "We've got to get Tino Martinez going. One-for-15 isn't getting the job done. I really like Tino, he's a great guy, but we're counting on him to drive in big runs at this time of year."
"Getting (J.D.) back in the lineup will help," said Wright. "If the Giants are going to score six or seven runs a game, we're going to have to score eight or nine."
"We might need (Scott) Rolen to play right away," Richard said. "It doesn't do any good to have him on the roster if weren't not going to use him."
"But you can't sit Miguel Cairo down, he's got seven hits in the playoffs," Wright shot back. "If Rolen isn't ready, Cairo should be in there."
Jenkins returned to his role as bottom-line guy.
"But with Rolen on the roster, our bench is limited," he said. "If Williams comes out early, we won't have enough guys to pinch-hit."
"We'll just have to get a big lead and try to hold on,"' Jenkins said.
All present agreed and, as if on cue, glanced at their watches and cell phones, and headed back to work.
"Go Cards," said Wright.
"Go Cards," answered Jenkins and Richard.
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.