10/03/2002 8:36 pm ET
Finley comes up big for Cards
Hand cramp forces lefty out with 1-0 lead in seventh
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Though a muscle cramp in Chuck Finley's left hand caused his removal from Thursday's Game 2 of the National League Division Series, he might not have remained in the game much longer anyway.
Finley, who yielded just four hits in 6 1/3 shutout innings as the Cardinals edged the Diamondbacks, 2-1, had thrown 105 pitches upon being removed. He had averaged 98 pitches per outing this season, with a high of 131.
"The guy's winning 1-0; how far do you push him?" St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa later asked rhetorically.
Clearly, Finley was near his limit when his left index finger kept "shutting down," in his words, toward his palm.
"I felt the trainers might be able to massage it or loosen it up," Finley said. "Tony was going to take me out if somebody got on [base], anyway. That was a smart move."
Using Finley to begin with was the best move of all.
After encountering mild trouble in the first inning, when Junior Spivey singled and Greg Colbrunn walked with one out, Finley recovered by striking out both Matt Williams and Steve Finley. Damian Miller doubled with one out in the second inning, spurring Finley to retire the next eight hitters he faced, as well as 10 of 11.
"I started getting all my pitches over," said Finley, who is expected to make his next start despite his cramp. "As I got strikes on guys, I was able to expand the [strike] zone and keep a lot of my pitches below the hitting zone. I was throwing them over the middle of the plate. They were kind of dropping down after that ... It was one of those games where the longer I stayed out there, it seemed like the better my rhythm progressed."
Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly thought that Finley's split-fingered fastball was the 17-year veteran's most devastating pitch.
"He got a lot of swinging strikes on pitches that were in the dirt," Brenly said of Finley, who walked two and struck out seven. "It probably looked bad from the stands. From our level, those were nasty pitches."
It was suggested that Finley's cramps could have been hastened by fatigue resulting from his tour of the basepaths in the top of the seventh inning. He reached first base when he forced out Mike Matheny with a failed sacrifice-bunt attempt, then advanced to third as Fernando Vina singled and J.D. Drew walked. After Curt Schilling struck out Jim Edmonds to end the threat, Finley returned to the mound and retired Miller on a grounder before summoning trainer Barry Weinberg.
"After that inning where I ran the bases, my hand started cramping up. I couldn't get it to relax," Finley said. "When I was facing [Miller], after every pitch, it would kind of lock down. I would try to move it back up."
He still helped move the Cardinals a step closer to the NL Championship Series.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.