10/12/2002 11:14 pm ET
Lineup changes pay off for Cards
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tony La Russa took a few chances, made a few changes and the Cardinals finally got a win in the NLCS.
After losing the first two games in St. Louis, the veteran manager knew he had to do something different before Game 3 to expect different results during the game.
La Russa moved Edgar Renteria from sixth or seventh in the lineup to second and dropped J.D. Drew from second to fifth. He also switched Albert Pujols from left field to third base and inserted Eli Marrero in left.
The moves were risky as they landed Miguel Cairo on the bench, even though he was hitting .375 with a home run and two RBIs in the NLCS and had tied a playoff record with eight straight hits in his last three series.
The changes may have helped, though, as Marrero drilled a solo home run in the sixth inning that gave the Cardinals a lead they never lost.
La Russa also instructed his hitters to take more pitches against Giants starter Russ Ortiz, who had won eight starts in a row. Ortiz was out of the game after giving up four runs on five hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.
"I know we had to win this game today to make it a series," La Russa said. "You go down 3-0, we would be brave and all that stuff out here tomorrow, but it would have been really tough."
After the game, La Russa said he liked the lineup and where it left him in terms of options.
"The good thing was that we had a really good bench today, and we were tied and the guys came in and everybody just said, 'Let's keep playing,'" La Russa said. "That's what we've been doing all year. We got a big swing from Eli."
Mike Matheny, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead, said the team has come to expect different heroes each game.
"We've been doing that all season long," Matheny said. "This was just another game where guys had a chance, an opportunity to contribute, and today Eli did. He's had big hits for us all season long.
"Guys have really taken advantage of their opportunities whenever they come, and we were real happy it was Eli this time."
Matheny said it was especially important for Marrero to come through after Barry Bonds had just tied the score at 4-4 with a three-run home run into McCovey Cove.
"It's good to see him step up right there," Matheny said. "We needed somebody. The momentum had shifted. A lot of air was let out of us with that pitch and you try not to let that happen. But when you lose a three-run lead on one swing, it's definitely a turn of the tide."
Pujols, who went 1-for-3 with a double, said he wasn't sure if the changes helped but the Cardinals came out with a better approach on Saturday.
"We were definitely ready to play," Pujols said. "Matheny and Marrero were key for us and then the bullpen came in and held it. Now we need to forget about this game and start thinking about tomorrow. It's almost like the seventh game of the World Series every night."
La Russa, who has managed in three World Series, said the Cardinals figure the series will be close the rest of the way.
"I think we made it a competitive series, but they are still in charge," La Russa said. "So, (on Sunday), we expect another game like today. Most of the time when we play the Giants, the games are just like this. I would rather be in their position, but at least we still have a series going."
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.