10/12/2002 10:13 pm ET
Cardinals bullpen saves the day
Four relievers combine for four shutout innings
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was relayed to Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen that pitchers and others talk about San Francisco's Barry Bonds "as if he were a god."
"I wasn't going to give him a chance to become another god in the ninth inning, put it that way," said Isringhausen, part of a bullpen that kept Bonds and the Giants in this world and helped the Cardinals get back into the National League Championship Series with a 5-4 victory in Game 3 Saturday at Pacific Bell Park.
Isringhausen has never allowed a hit to Bonds and he didn't in the ninth inning, walking him during an otherwise clean inning that completed four shutout innings by Cards relievers.
The Giants loaded the bases in the seventh -- after having done it two other times against winning pitcher Chuck Finley -- and worked a runner into scoring position with one out in the eighth. But each of the four relievers forced key outs to help the Cards cut the Giants' series lead to 2-1.
"Our bullpen has been doing that all year long, since the beginning of the year when it seemed like we had maybe two healthy starters and we'd been sucking up five or six innings every game," Isringhausen said.
It's no different from the regular season, when Redbird relievers went 33-21 and were third in the NL with a 3.11 ERA. Rick White, who was signed as a free agent after being relased by Colorado, and lefty Jeff Fassero, acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, made the bullpen better in the season's final months.
"Our bullpen is awesome," St. Louis third baseman Albert Pujols said. "They're going to make a mistake in some game, but they stepped up today. They knew this game was big, but they did what they did all year long."
San Francisco almost equaled St. Louis's bullpen effort by limiting the Cardinals to one run in 4 1/3 innings.
But ultimately, Finley ended up with his first postseason victory, and he had the relievers to thank. Bonds hit a three-run shot to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth, but Eli Marerro put Finley back into position for the victory with his own homer off Jay Witasick in the top of the sixth.
"Our bullpen did outstanding from the fifth-on to hold them down," Finley said. "They had plenty of opportunities to get guys in. It just didn't happen."
Dave Veres struck out Reggie Sanders with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh, then left-hander Steve Kline finished the inning by getting J.T. Snow to ground out to second.
San Francisco's David Bell singled off Kline to open the eighth and was standing at second with two outs when White jammed hot Giants hitter Rich Aurilia with a fastball and got an inning-ending grounder.
"We put some scary moments into this," White said. "That's the way it is with every bullpen every game."
In the end, however, Isringhausen made it less scary.
After striking out Jeff Kent, Isringhausen threw a first-pitch strike to Bonds. Then he dared Bonds to chase the ball out of the strike zone.
"With a one-run lead, you don't give a man of his stature and caliber and talent a chance," Isringhausen said.
Isringhausen then struck out Benito Santiago and Reggie Sanders flied out to right field to complete an effort that put the Cardinals back into the series.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.