10/11/2002 00:16 am ET
Giants-Cardinals: Big picture
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
Talk about being in the driver's seat. After winning the first two games of the National League Championship Series on the road, the Giants are not only sitting pretty, they've locked the door to the bus and started to drive it off the lot.
Since the inception of the seven-game format for the League Championship Series, no team has ever lost two games to start the series at its own park and then gone on to win the series. The Giants need only win two of the next three slated at Pacific Bell Park to earn their first World Series berth since 1989.
The first of those games will be started by Russ Ortiz, who has been nothing short of brilliant in tallying a 2-0 record this postseason. And Sunday's potential clincher will feature Livan Hernandez, the epitome of a playoff pitcher sporting a 6-0 lifetime record and MVP awards from an NLCS and a World Series.
If any team can forge new ground, however, it would be these Cardinals. Few stories have been written about them in the last couple of months without the use of the word "adversity." They can draw some strength from Woody Williams' gutsy performance and the possible return of Scott Rolen for the San Francisco portion of this clash.
But even the Cardinals cannot downplay the size of that huge mountain plopped in front of them, daring them to climb it. They haven't beaten themselves in either game, instead being dominated by a Giants team firing on all cylinders. Jason Schmidt made them look downright silly at the plate Thursday as the Giants won, 4-1. Williams limited his mistakes to the wrong guy -- Rich Aurilia who made like Mark McGwire with a pair of long balls.
At this point, it's almost like trying to carry an armful of leaves. Just when you think you've got them all scooped up, you look back and see a trail of them dribbled behind you. The Cardinals found a way to keep Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds and Benito Santiago from hurting them on Thursday, but then there was Aurilia to inflict the damage.
Talk about spirit-busting: The Cardinals haven't even held the lead once in the first two games of the series. They've been looking up from the canvas more than Mike Tyson these days. Of course, they shouldn't feel special in that regard, since the Giants have scored in the first or second inning in their last 15 games and 19 of their last 21.
All the Cardinals can do now is cling to the oldest of baseball cliches -- "one game at a time." If they think too hard about their assignment, winning four of the next five games from this red-hot Giants team, they might not even want to board the plane to San Francisco.
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.