10/14/2002 02:35 am ET
Santiago delivers against White
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rick White watched the arc of the fly ball hit by Benito Santiago and thought he was out of trouble.
Seconds later White realized how much trouble he, and the Cardinals, were in after Santiago's ball left Pacific Bell Park for a two-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday night that lifted San Francisco to a 4-3 victory and a three-games to-one lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
"I thought it was a pop fly, then I saw Eli (Marrero) keep going back and back and back and I thought 'Please don't let that ball leave the park,'" White said. "I can't believe that ball went out because I don't give up a lot of home runs."
In fact, White had not given up a homer since he joined St. Louis and only four while he was with Colorado earlier this season. The right-hander has allowed only 48 homers in 341 career games.
Therefore it wasn't surprising, with two outs and nobody on and the bases empty in a 2-2 game White would be ordered to intentionally walk Barry Bonds and pitch to Santiago.
"A lot of times a strategy is judged on whether or not it works, so it didn't work, bad strategy," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "But you know, Bonds is the most dangerous hitter in the game right now, and it's tough to walk in that clubhouse with giving him a chance to get the hit to beat you. Santiago has been very tough, but it's a little easier to take."
White believed walking Bonds was the best course of action.
"You don't want to give a guy like Bonds a chance to beat you," White said. "I just needed one more out. and I thought I could get Benito. I tried to get him inside, and thought I did (with a 3-2 fastball), when he swung he spun around and when he first hit it I thought it was a popup. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred he pops that up."
Santiago called the home run "a dream come true."
"I know I hit it hard," said Santaigo "And what I remember is the time before that, they struck me out with the same pitch and this time it was 3-2 and I was looking and tried to put the good side of the bat on the ball and it happened."
Down the bullpen San Francisco closer Robb Nen had slowed his warmup process.
"It was a time game and I didn't want to use all my bullets (in the bullpen) and didn't know if I'd even be coming in the game," Nen said. "As soon as he hit it I knew it was out."
The same might be said for the Cardinals very soon. In truth, Santiago's shot may have been the mortal blow to the Cardinals' World Series hopes. They must win three straight to get to the Fall Classic against Anaheim.
Only three teams have ever come back from being down three games to one to win the League Championship Series: The '85 Royals (vs. Toronto), the '86 Red Sox (vs. the Angels) and the '96 Braves (against St. Louis).
"We needed this one because now we have a chance to close it out tomorrow and not have to go back to St. Louis," Nen said.
In the extremely quiet visitors' clubhouse at Pacific Bell Park, the Cardinals were clearly down after falling into a 3-1 hole in the series with this loss, especially after stranding 11 men, including seven at third base.
"No question this was one really hurt," pitcher Andy Benes said. "But we've got (Matt Morris) going tomorrow, and we've still got a shot, and we're a team that doesn't quit. We just don't have any margin for error."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was not sujbect to approval by Major League Baseball.