10/06/2002 01:24 am ET
For Cardinals relievers, redemption
Fassero wins, Isringhausen saves clincher
By Jared Hoffman / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Last year, against these same Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series, the Cardinals bullpen was charged with two of the losses.
This time, the bullpen played a major role in the Cardinals completing a sweep of Arizona in the NLDS. Reliever Jeff Fassero picked up wins in Game 1 and Game 3, closer Jason Isringhausen notched two saves by working a perfect inning each time. As a group, the bullpen didn't allow an earned run in nine innings.
They saved the best for last by working a 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 3, most of it with just a one-run lead.
Starter Andy Benes was pulled from the game with two outs in the fifth inning and runners at first and second. Fassero came in to face Finley and, in his words, retired him on "the inning-ending base hit." Finely ripped a pitch to left field, but Albert Pujols threw out Chris Donnels at the plate.
"That was big," Fassero said. "I got the out I needed to get out but it wasn't exactly the way I wanted to get it."
Fassero worked a scoreless sixth, allowing just a two-out single to Quinton McCracken. Rick White handled the seventh and retired all three batters he faced.
In mid-August, White was released by the Rockies, now he finds himself pitching regularly in key situations for St. Louis -- and for good reason. In the regular season, White allowed just two earned runs in 20 appearances and had 17 "holds" in only 20 games.
"Not pitching very good, getting released, coming over here, being in key situations, winning the division and now winning the first round of the playoffs, I can't ask for any more," said White. "I'm going after hitters just like I did in Colorado, the only difference is my ball is moving. Things are working great, and I'm just running with it."
White also brought with him postseason experience -- he was a valuable member of the Mets bullpen in 2000 and that helped him fight nerves in a one-run game in front of 50,000-plus roaring fans.
"Pitching in a World Series in 2000 really helped my nerves quite a bit," said White. "I wasn't nervous. I was really focused. When you come into situations like that you have to be able to control your nerves."
White then passed the baton to left-hander Steve Kline who capped a perfect eighth by retiring dangerous right-handed hitting Matt Williams and keeping Williams 0-for-the NLDS.
Kline said pitching in the situation was what he dreamed of.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Kline said. "You don't play for the money you play for the pressure."
Isringhausen then took care of the ninth, but instead of having the same one-run lead his bullpen mates had to work with, his teammates tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the eighth for him.
While Izzy doesn't like to wait, he didn't mind the extra runs. He's sure nobody else did either.
"If we have a one-run lead, that makes everyone bite their nails and throw up," Isringhausen said. "But I was able to go out there and get the job done."
One of the Cardinals weaknesses from last postseason is obviously one of their strengths.
"This bullpen, we all believe in each other and we all work together," said White. "We know we're going to go out there and pick each other up. It's one solid unit, and if you get one unit functioning it's hard to break that unit up."
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.