10/14/2002 01:30 am ET
Cards lament missed chances
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Every time the Cardinals were asked about all the opportunities they had during the 4-3 loss to the Giants in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night, they could not help but wince.
They were ahead 2-0 early. Andy Benes was dominating through five innings. When he needed to come out, Benes was followed by one of their hottest relievers. And then, when they gave up the lead in the eighth, they had runners on base and a good chance to tie, if not go ahead, in the ninth.
In all, the Cardinals left 12 men on base, including seven on third base. They were 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position in the game and are 3-for-31 in the series.
"It's kind of the reverse of yesterday," said manager Tony La Russa. "They had a bunch of chances early and didn't capitalize and we came back and won the game. Today, we had some chances to add runs and we didn't. That comes back to haunt you."
The game began with St. Louis jumping out front with two runs in the first. Benes looked strong, but was pulled with one out in the sixth after walking Jeff Kent.
"We had (Kent) 1-2 and he got away," LaRussa said.
Rick White, the Cardinals best setup guy at the end of the season, came in and gave up two tying runs on a double by J.T. Snow. White stayed in the game until the eighth, his longest outing as a Cardinal, when he gave up a home run to Benito Santiago after walking Barry Bonds.
"(Rick) has been very good for us," La Russa said. "He was so fresh, came off one hitter and had a couple of days off coming in. A game like today, he was fresh enough to go that far. Look at the outs he got. He just let the sinker get away from him a little bit."
White said he had no problem pitching that much in a big game.
"I felt real good," White said. "I made only two bad pitches in three innings, one to J.T. and one to Santiago."
White said he agreed with the decision to put Bonds, the potential go-ahead run, on base in the eighth.
"We didn't want to give him a chance to beat us," White said. "And I thought I could get Benito out doing what I was doing. But I gave him a good pitch to hit and he did what he was supposed to do with it.
"I wasn't surprised he hit it. I was surprised he hit it out like that. I could throw that pitch to him 100 times and he would only hit it out one time."
White said when he looks back, he will be most unhappy with the pitch to Snow.
"It was more discouraging that I gave up the first two runs and ruined the great performance that Andy gave us," White said.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals hitters were stranding their teammates on base just about every inning. Two runners each in the first, third, sixth and ninth innings were unable to score, and they left runners at third in every inning except the fourth and fifth.
The St. Louis players weren't interested in going into great detail about the reasons.
Since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1985, only three teams have rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to advance to the World Series:
The '85 Royals over the Blue Jays
The '86 Red Sox over the Angels
The '96 Braves over the Cardinals
"It was very frustrating because we had so many chances," said Fernando Vina.
"We out-hit them, but just didn't do the little things it takes," said Steve Kline.
"We had a lot of opportunities to really turn the momentum in our favor but it just didn't happen," said Mike Matheny.
"It would have been nice to score more early," said Tino Martinez. "We had the game in hand for a while but they got the key hits when they needed to."
Albert Pujols said the Cardinals need to approach Game 5 in San Francisco the same as they did Game 4, even though they face elimination.
"We went out ready to play," said Pujols. "We actually got a lot of hits but we didn't get the big hit. The biggest hit of the night was Jimmy (Edmonds) in the ninth but the rest of us, including myself, had a lot of chances to drive in important runs. But we didn't get it done.
"We'll just have to play tomorrow like it's the seventh game of the World Series."
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.