10/03/2002 6:47 pm ET
Cairo's single lifts Cards to victory
Single scores Renteria with winning run in ninth
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The Cardinals' bad luck seems to have trailed them into the postseason -- but so has their remarkable resilience.
Miguel Cairo's single up the middle in the top of the ninth scored Edgar Renteria to give St. Louis a thrilling 2-1 win Thursday over Arizona on Thursday. The Cardinals now hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
It could be a costly win for St. Louis, though. Star third baseman Scott Rolen left the game with a shoulder sprain after colliding with pinch-runner Alex Cintron on the basepaths in the seventh. Earlier, starter Chuck Finley was pulled with a cramp in his left (pitching) hand, but that injury is not believed to be serious.
X-rays on Rolen's shoulder were negative, but the full extent of the injury will not be known until he undergoes a CT scan in St. Louis on Friday.
Cairo's game-winning single came just moments after Arizona had tied the game on Quinton McCracken's RBI double. St. Louis had led 1-0 from the third inning until the bottom of the eighth. But the Redbirds, who have endured tougher challenges than these all year long, rebounded in the top of the ninth for the winning rally.
"We already passed those tests," said manager Tony La Russa. "I'd just as soon we not keep getting tested."
Renteria, the team's unofficial captain and a man who has come through with far more than his share of big hits this year, led off the ninth with a single to left against reliever Mike Koplove. He advanced to second on Mike Matheny's sacrifice bunt and scored on Cairo's single.
"It's tough," Renteria said of batting against the side-arming Koplove. "The guy comes from [his ankles]. I was looking for anything. Walk, hit by pitch. He threw a fastball inside, strike one. And I think, 'Man, this guy's coming for me.' Then he threw me a slider and I tried to put it in play. Something happened."
Cairo, who had come into the game in an eighth-inning double switch, jumped on the first pitch from Koplove and St. Louis was back on top.
"I always get ready to pinch-hit," Cairo said. "Today I got the chance, the opportunity, to go out there. I was just looking for a fastball to hit somewhere hard. I got the fastball right in the middle, a little in, but I tried to hit it to the middle. I got lucky today."
Once the Cardinals had the lead, it was time for closer Jason Isringhausen, who has been dominant this season but was slowed in recent weeks by shoulder tendinitis. Isringhausen put away pinch-hitter Chris Donnels, leadoff man Tony Womack and All-Star Junior Spivey in order to close out the game.
Another close call, another win for the resilient Redbirds.
"It's just important that we won, no matter what, period," Isringhausen said. "We had a lead, gave it up, got it back. It was a pretty exciting game. We wanted to win two here. That was everybody's goal, and we were able to do that. That's really all that we came here to do."
Finley struck out seven and walked two, allowing just four hits, but didn't last long enough to pick up the decision. He remained winless in three career playoff starts.
Like the last time he faced the Cardinals, Schilling looked unbeatable in the early going. Fernando Vina beat out an infield single up the middle to lead off the game, but the next three St. Louis hitters struck out swinging.
Drew put St. Louis on the board in the top of the third. He poked a Schilling pitch 367 feet into the left-field seats for a 1-0 lead. Drew also hit a three-run homer off Schilling last week at Busch Stadium.
"Sinking fastball away," Drew said. "Good pitch. Tip your cap to Curt when he's throwing that way. He threw the ball well. I was just fortunate to get a good piece of the ball and hit it in the right spot. Probably one of the best pitches he threw me all day and I was fortunate to get the barrel on it."
Finley made things a bit interesting after that, but the Diamondbacks couldn't push across a run. Matt Williams hit a deep fly ball in the fourth that would have been gone in most ballparks, but Jim Edmonds hauled it in just in front of the 413-foot marker in left-center.
The Diamondbacks tied the game in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Rick White. Greg Colbrunn reached on an error by Albert Pujols, who had moved to third base when Rolen was removed. Colbrunn scored on a double to right by Quinton McCracken. But Jeff Fassero snuffed out the threat, and Isringhausen closed it out.
"I like when the game is close," Renteria said, "because we know how to play the game. We've done this a lot of times this year. I like it when the game goes like that, 1-0, 2-1. We never give up. We're always fighting. That's the way we do it."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at Matthew_H_Leach@yahoo.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.