10/14/2002 7:59 pm ET
Did Vina have a chance to score?
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- When you strand seven runners at third base in a one-run loss in a playoff game it is easy for the exact science of hindsight to lead to second-guessing, but a day after St. Louis dropped a 4-3 decision to San Francisco in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals still believed a lack of execution, more than any game decisions, was the main culprit in the loss.
Cardinals second baseman Fernando Vina was stranded at third base when the game ended after he was unable to score from second base on Jim Edmonds' one-out single to right field in the ninth inning. Usually a runner at second scores on a base hit to the outfield, but in this case Edmonds' ball was hit sharply and Vina stopped at third. There was speculation that Vina may have been deceived by San Francisco third baseman David Bell.
"I was not (deceived) by David Bell," Vina said. "When the ball was hit I took off. I had a good break and good jump off the second base area. As I was going to third, I saw Kerry Robinson stop by the third base bag a little farther off. That's why I (had) to slow down, because I didn't want to run up behind him.
"I didn't want to make any mistakes there and obviously with (Albert) Pujols and J.D. (Drew) coming up, obviously Pujols, our best RBI guy all year long, you have to give him an opportunity to make it happen."
Replays seemed to confirm Vina's assessment. Even had he gone full speed it wasn't certain he would have beat Tom Goodwin's throw to the plate. And with one out there was less incentive to gamble, with Pujols due up and the possibility of a sacrifice fly that could have tied the game was very much on the Cardinals' mind.
"The ball I think is a tough enough read where you can't get a real good jump," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "Normally we try to run on his arm, but it was a tough ball to read. It's pretty tough, you run into a double play there, you get third base with Albert (Pujols) coming up. I think the line drive carried a little too far (to risk sending Vina)."
Pujols struck out for the second out and Giants closer Rob Nen fanned Drew to end the game with Vina still on third base.
The world will never know if Vina would have scored or been thrown out. One thing is certain: Had he tried and been thrown out at the plate the Cardinals would have really had the second-guessers on their backs.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article was not sujbect to approval by Major League Baseball.