10/11/2002 01:49 am ET
Schmidt masters Cardinals
Righty fans eight, allows four hits in 7 2/3 innings
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Three pitches -- slider, changeup and upper-90s fastball -- took about a minute and a half in the seventh inning on Thursday. But they were the culmination of years of work San Francisco Giants right-hander Jason Schmidt has put into making himself a pitcher.
Even more impressive was that Schmidt pulled them off when he needed them most. He was at his best during a key strikeout of Edgar Renteria with two on and two out during the seventh inning of a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Schmidt's work helped give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, which moves to San Francisco for three games starting Saturday.
Schmidt struck out eight an walked one in 7 2/3 innings, which ended with pinch-hitter Eduardo Perez's homer to left with two down in the eighth. And Schmidt, whose strikeouts were the most by a Giants pitcher in the NLCS since Dave Dravecky fanned eight in Game 2 against the Cardinals in 1987, was hot almost from the first pitch.
"Once I got to the mound, I had to tweak a few things in my windup this time," Schmidt said. "I just tried to go out there and throw strikes more than anything. It wasn't anything special."
Schmidt passed the biggest test of his career by showing the pitch mix and maturity that many foresaw when he was breaking in as a highly regarded prospect with Atlanta in the mid- 1990s and toiling in relative obscurity with the Pittsburgh Pirates until the Giants acquired him late last season.
"Throughout the ballgame there were a lot of at-bats where he could have went 3-and-1 and had to make pitches," Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "He just showed a lot of heart and pitched his you-know-what off.
"What I liked tonight is that he didn't overthrow his slider didn't try to power it too hard. He let it work and he was on the plate with his other pitches. He didn't just have to keep pumping the fastball."
Giants first baseman J.T. Snow said, "It's funny because a lot of the teams that we've played against, when I talk to some guys who get down to first base, they don't realize how hard he throws and the kind of stuff he has. I think he's been a secret in Pittsburgh for awhile, and he pitched a great game tonight."
Schmidt, bailed out in the third by center fielder Kenny Lofton's throw that cut down J.D. Drew at the plate, revealed himself during the key seventh inning.
Albert Pujols singled and Tino Martinez walked with two outs, which put Edgar Renteria in position to turn the game St. Louis's way.
But Schmidt used the three-pitch mix that transformed him from the inexperience thrower that he was when coming up with Atlanta in 1994 and 1995 to the potential star he is now.
Here's how he vanquished Renteria:
Slider: Once Schmidt established his fastball early, he had Cardinals sluggers Jim Edmonds and Pujols swinging over this pitch as it tumbled. Renteria didn't offer at all. Strike one.
Changeup: Once Cardinals hitters saw a fastball that consistently reached 97 mph and the split-finger at 90 mph, they had little chance when he slowed things down. On this at-bat, Renteria swung too soon at a pitch in the dirt. Strike two.
Fastball: The best part of Schmidt's early years with Atlanta and Pittsburgh was he never became a nibbler. At times he relied too much on his heater, but relying on a pitch in the upper 90s with movement is not entirely bad.
He blew one by Renteria to finish off the at-bat.
The performance left Giants manager Dusty Baker in awe.
"From the opening pitch, I looked on the board -- and their radar gun is pretty accurate here -- and he's throwing 96, 97 (mph) and locating it," Baker said. "If you can locate that kind of pitch, especially to throw this kind of ballgame against that potent of a lineup, that's an awesome, awesome game."
The fact Schmidt was strong and in the strike zone throughout his outing was a dramatic improvement over his work in his previous appearance, Saturday's Game 3 of the NL Division Series against Atlanta.
Schmidt was locked in a 1-1 battle with Atlanta's Greg Maddux until the sixth, when he walked three straight batters with one out. Reliever Manny Aybar gave up five runs with two pitches, and the Giants lost.
However, the way Schmidt finished his work Thursday night suggests that he is getting closer to being a finished product.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.