Santiago's homer puts Giants on the brink

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The strategy against the San Francisco Giants is simple: Don't let Barry Bonds beat you.

Game 4 at a glance


Benito Santiago made the Cardinals pay dearly for intentionally walking Barry Bonds with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the eighth by hitting a game-winning two-run homer. For the 37-year-old Santiago, it was his second home run of the series.


The ball that Santiago hit out of the yard was the 41st pitch thrown by Rick White since taking over for Andy Benes with one out in the sixth inning. Was White left in the game too long? That's certainly debatable, and Santiago had struck out against White in his previous at-bat, but consider this: the 41 pitches were the most thrown by White in 66 outings (61 regular season, five postseason) this year.

Key move

Perhaps more than why did Tony La Russa leave White in the game, why did White throw a 3-and-2 fastball on the inside part of the plate to Santiago instead of a pitch on the outer part of the plate? Santiago is known to be a free-swinger and if White throws the pitch away, Santiago may go fishing for it and strikes out or grounds out to end the inning.

Key stat

The Cardinals left 11 runners on base, including six over the final four innings. The biggest? Jim Edmonds singled to right in the ninth with one out but potential tying run Fernando Vina was held at third base.

Looking ahead

Matt Morris, coming off a bad start in Game 1 when he was rocked for seven runs -- all earned -- and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings, will start Game 5 for the Cardinals. He was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two starts vs. the Giants during the regular season. Kirk Rueter, who beat Morris in the opener despite allowing five runs -- all earned -- in five innings, will counter for the Giants. In the regular season, Rueter was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one start vs. the Cardinals.

No problem, Bonds' teammates say. We'll do it ourselves.

Benito Santiago followed an unconventional intentional walk to

Bonds with a tiebreaking two-run homer with two outs in the eighth

inning, leading San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis

Cardinals on Sunday night in Game 4 of the NL championship series.

"I was so excited they walked Barry Bonds,'' Santiago said. "I

wanted them to pay again.''

Bonds, who scored the tying and go-ahead runs, is now one win

away from his first trip to the World Series.

He scored both runs after walks, as Santiago and J.T. Snow came

through with the big hits.

"If they walk him, then they want to be beaten not by the best

but by someone else,'' Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia said.

"Tonight it was Benito.''

Bonds' brilliance has made the unheard of routine --

intentionally putting the tying or go-ahead run on base.

The move failed for Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

"Strategy is judged on whether it works. So it didn't work. Bad

strategy,'' La Russa said.

Robb Nen nearly blew it in the ninth, throwing a third-strike

wild pitch to the leadoff hitter and allowing a one-out RBI single

by Jim Edmonds.

But with runners on first and third, Nen recovered to strike out

Albert Pujols and J.D. Drew for his third save in the series.

"I had to get the strikeouts,'' Nen said. "I knew if I made my

pitch, I could get them.''

The Giants can win their first NL pennant in 13 years with a win

at home Monday night and set up baseball's first all wild-card

World Series. Anaheim won the AL championship earlier Sunday.

Game 1 winner Kirk Rueter will pitch the fifth game for the

Giants against Matt Morris.

With two outs and nobody on in the eighth, Bonds strolled to the

plate and La Russa never hesitated, putting four fingers in the air

for an intentional walk.

"Bonds is the most dangerous hitter in the game right now, and

it's tough to walk in that clubhouse with giving him a chance to

get the hit to beat you,'' La Russa said. "Santiago has been very

tough, but it's a little easier to take.''

Santiago has revived his career after a life-threatening car

accident nearly ended it in 1998. He has 11 RBI this postseason,

often coming through after Bonds has been walked.

With a sellout crowd of 42,676 pounding their orange

ThunderStix, Santiago worked the count full.

He then drove a pitch from Rick White into the left-field seats.

Santiago pumped his fist and tossed his bat away before rounding

the bases.

"I was looking for that type of pitch. He got me out with that

pitch. I guessed right this time,'' Santiago said.

Bonds pumped his fist repeatedly on his way home -- his long wait

for a chance to perform on baseball's biggest stage just one game


Bonds had never won a postseason series before this year, losing

all five tries -- partly because of his own struggles. He hit .196

with one home run and six RBI in 97 at-bats in his first five

postseason trips, hardly the numbers of baseball's best player.

This season, he has risen to the occasion with four homers and

nine RBI in October. But his threat proved to be the biggest

contribution of all, setting up the game-winning hit.

"All year, they've walked Barry and we backed him up,'' Nen

said. "Because of him, we're here.''

Bonds didn't talk after the game.

Tim Worrell got the final two outs of the eighth for the win to

set up the tense ninth for Nen. The Cardinals were 2-for-17 with

runners in scoring position with the biggest outs coming in the


"I didn't do my job,'' Pujols said. "We left a lot of runners

on base.''

Giants starter Livan Hernandez, who brought a 6-0 career

postseason record and boasts of his perfection into the game, gave

up two runs in the first but held the Cardinals at bay after that.

He was relieved by Felix Rodriguez with one out in the sixth and

a runner on second base. Rodriguez retired Edmonds on a grounder

and Pujols on a flyout.

Cardinals starter Andy Benes, who was pitching underhanded to

kindergartners in June as he contemplated retirement, shut out

Bonds and the Giants on two hits through five innings.

La Russa let Benes bat with two on and two outs in the top of

the sixth and the pitcher grounded out.

The decision proved costly. Benes walked Jeff Kent with one out

before throwing four straight balls to Bonds -- none even close to

the strike zone.

La Russa pulled Benes for White, who struck out Santiago. Snow

then hit a 1-0 pitch off the wall in left-center for a two-run

double and Bonds stomped on home plate as he scored the tying run.

"People make such a big deal of Barry not getting pitches and

being walked,'' Snow said. "Guys in the middle of the order or at

the bottom feel like someone's going to get a base hit somewhere.''

The Cardinals scored first for the first time this series.

Fernando Vina hit the first pitch of the game into the gap in

left-center for a double. Vina later scored on Edmonds' one-out

grounder, but Hernandez got in trouble when he hit Pujols in the

back with a pitch.

Pujols glared out at the mound -- but no one left the dugout, as

in Game 1. Drew followed with a single and Tino Martinez blooped

another single down the left-field line for his first RBI of the


Once again, 5-year-old Kannon Kile romped around the Cardinals'

dugout during the game. The son of late St. Louis pitcher Darryl

Kile has been a source of motivation to the team.

Game notes

The Giants have scored 14 of their 21 runs in the series

with two outs. ... The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes so

Fox could show the end of the ALCS.