10/11/2002 01:50 am ET
Williams shoulders blame for loss
By Jared Hoffman / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The only person blaming Woody Williams for the Cardinals' 4-1 loss to the Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS was Woody Williams.
In many ways, Williams' start didn't look much different than most of his regular-season starts -- steady and efficient. But Thursday's effort was one to be appreciated even more than usual, considering Williams was starting his and the Cardinals' biggest game of the year on three weeks' rest.
The right-hander hadn't appeared in a game since Sept. 20 because of an injury to his left side that landed him on the DL twice during the season for a total of 12 weeks. This time the injury was not as severe, but Williams was scratched from a start against Arizona in the NLDS and left off the roster.
Despite the long layoff, Williams pitched six strong innings -- a major plus for a team with only four available bench players -- and limited the Giants to three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out seven. His only mistakes came on two pitches to Rich Aurilia.
Williams said his outing was pain free, but that did little to console him.
"I'm very happy I didn't have to come out of the ballgame," said Williams. "That's something that's happened way too many times this year. I'm not satisfied with pitching the way I did. I know anybody can make any excuse they want for me, but the bottom line is I lost and I put the team behind too early."
Williams was certainly his own toughest critic when it came to evaluating his Game 2 performance as his manager and members of the opposing team were impressed with what they saw.
"It's incredible to me," said Tony La Russa. "How a guy can pitch that well, having the routine he's had, and it's the third time he's done it. Woody was just outstanding."
Giants first baseman J.T. Snow wasn't surprised Williams gave the Cardinals a quality performance despite the long layoff.
"He's a battler and gives you everything he's got," said Snow. "He's a guy who locates his pitches and keeps you off balance.
All three of the runs given up by Williams came off the bat of Aurilia, who homered twice to the same spot -- a few rows deep into the left-field bleachers. The first one was a solo shot in the first. The second was a two-run blast in the fifth that made a slim 1-0 deficit turn into a seemingly large 3-0 margin on a night where his counterpart, Jason Schmidt, was handcuffing the Cardinals.
"The first one was down and it wasn't on the corner by any means, but he went down and got it," said Williams of Aurilia's first-inning homer. "The second one, it wasn't that good of a pitch, but at the same time, I thought he hit it up in the air enough to stay in the ballpark. I was kind of surprised when it carried out."
Williams said with Schmidt throwing so well for the Giants he had to be at his best in Game 2, and he wasn't.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself and I think I do better when the pressure is on me. But I just flat-out got outpitched and tonight's my fault," said Williams. "It's not the hitters' fault. We had a chance to win at the end but giving up three runs in the first six innings didn't help."
By showing the Cardinals he is healthy enough to take the mound and be effective, Williams has shown he could still be a factor in this series. But for him to get another chance, it will likely be in Game 6.
That would be just fine with the Cardinals.
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.