10/06/2002 02:05 am ET
Vina's aggressiveness leads Cards
Leadoff man goes 9-for-15 in Division Series
By Jared Hoffman / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Fernando Vina is not your typical leadoff hitter as he doesn’t draw many walks. That was far less a concern last season when Vina hit .303, but almost unacceptable in 2002 when he batted .270 and had a .333 on-base percentage.
After the Cardinals clinched and Vina was struggling a bit, manager Tony La Russa said, “Don’t worry about Fernando, he’ll be there when we need him to be.”
Vina still didn’t draw many walks -- he picked up his first of the Division Series in the eighth inning of Game 3, but when you hit .600 (9-15) nobody is counting how many walks the leadoff hitter has.
“You know, as a leadoff guy, you’ve got to do what you can do because the weight is on your shoulders to try and get things rolling for the club, but it definitely felt good,” said Vina.
The aggressiveness that sometimes limits the number of walks Vina draws was clearly his ally this series. When facing pitchers such as Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the first pitch might be your best -- or only -- good one to hit.
“You’ve got to be aggressive,” said Vina. "Those guys are the best around with Randy and Curt, and Miguel Batista is a special pitcher also. I went up there to be aggressive and hopefully get a good pitch to hit because, if you get behind, they can put you away. I prepared myself the right way and it worked out for me.”
Vina played a big part in Game 3. In the third inning, he went the other way, singling through the hole at short. He then scored on a base hit by Albert Pujols two batters later to tie the game, 2-2.
In the fourth, after the Cardinals had taken a 3-2 lead earlier in the inning on a suicide squeeze by Andy Benes, Vina drove home another run with an RBI single.
“You know that was a good at-bat there,” said Vina. “Miguel had two strikes on me and I kept battling and battling. I was just trying to get the good part of the bat on the ball and fortunately I hit it pretty good and we scored there.”
Vina also helped out with the glove too, which should not be a surprise since he is the reigning Gold Glover at his position. In the top of the fourth, he took away a hit from Erubiel Durazo by ranging far to his left.
“That was a tough one,” said Vina. “Obviously it was in the hole and I went to go get it and it popped up on me.”
Since Vina was arguably the Cards’ MVP in this series, it was fitting the last out was hit to him.
“I wanted that ball as much as possible,” said Vina. “Once it left my hand, I was just pumped up and looking for Edgar (Renteria) because that’s my man when we win something so special like this to jump on and go for it.”
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.