10/05/2002 9:37 pm ET
Cards put squeeze on D-Backs
Benes' bunt gave Cardinals lead in the fourth
By Jared Hoffman and Chris Haft / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Though St. Louis starting pitcher Andy Benes didn't earn the decision in the Cardinals' 6-3 victory that concluded their three-game Division Series sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, his fourth-inning squeeze bunt helped prove decisive.
Benes' squeeze drove in Miguel Cairo from third base with the run that broke a 2-2 tie. Fernando Vina, who batted after Benes, added an RBI single to increase St. Louis' lead to 4-2.
After Arizona's David Dellucci hit a two-run homer in the second inning to open the scoring, the Cardinals pulled even with single runs in the second and third.
In the fourth, Cairo was hit by a pitch with one out. Mike Matheny's single put runners at the corners with Benes coming to bat.
Would Benes try a sacrifice bunt or swing away? He kept Arizona starter Miguel Batista and the rest of the Diamondbacks guessing by squaring to bunt, then pulling back and then showing the bunt again.
"Tony's very aggressive," Benes said, referring to Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. "We work on that all the time, showing we're going to bunt and then pulling back. With guys on first and third, we're in a situation where we can sacrifice. I could pull back and swing if the guys move in in the infield."
LaRussa revealed that he had discussed the possibility of using Benes to squeeze with first-base coach Dave McKay, third-base coach Jose Oquendo and Cairo and Matheny, who probably would be on base with the pitcher due up.
"When Andy is in the game, he can do so many things," LaRussa said, praising the right-hander's ability to handle a bat. "He's an excellent bunter and he's really good with (reading) signs."
Batista's first pitch to Benes was a ball. On the second pitch, the Cardinals put on a suicide squeeze but Benes' bunt rolled a few feet in front of the plate before going foul. "He threw me a good cutter," Benes said. "It was a tough pitch to bunt. I got it off of the end of the bat."
Batista threw two more balls, and on a 3-1 count, LaRussa put on the suicide squeeze again. This time, Benes made it work. His bunt trickled straight out in front of home plate, and Cairo, who didn't get the best jump off third base, still scored easily as Arizona's only play was to first base.
"I bunted it just like the first one, but it went far enough that Miguel could score," Benes said. "I think Tony has confidence in not only me but that other pitchers can handle the bat."
Said LaRussa, "It was great execution."
Benes' bunt also advanced Matheny, who scored on Vina's single.
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com. Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.