This story appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun and earned first place in the Arizona Associated Press Managing Editors sports deadline reporting category for 2002.


October 03, 2002 10:00 pm
Sun Sports Staff
PHOENIX — For the Arizona Diamondbacks, it’s officially time to push the panic button.

The Diamondbacks wasted a brilliant pitching performance by Curt Schilling, seven innings, one run, seven strikeouts, after tying the game at 1 in the eighth inning. They blew the lead in the ninth and lost 2-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Bank One Ballpark.

The Diamondbacks trail the Cardinals 2-0 in the best-of-five series. Game 3 is Saturday at Bush Stadium in St. Louis.

“It’s tough. It means you’re in an 0-2 hole going back to their ballpark,” Arizona manager Bob Brenly said moments after the Cardinals beat Arizona and co-aces Randy Johnson and Schilling in back-to-back games. “It’s probably the understatement of the season that our work is cut out for us.”

Said Schilling: “(We) certainly didn’t expect to leave here down 2-0. It is what it is. We’re going to have to find a way to right the ship, 48 hours to get this thing going. They’ve come out and done what they had to do.”

Edgar Renteria initiated St. Louis’ ninth-inning rally with a leadoff single to left. Renteria advanced to second on Mike Matheny’s textbook sacrifice bunt and scored the go-ahead run on Miguel Cairo’s RBI single up the middle off reliever Mike Koplove (0-1).

“I was just looking for a fastball to hit somewhere hard,” Cairo said, smiling like someone who just won the lottery. “I got the fastball right in the middle, a little in, but I tried to hit it to the middle. I got lucky today.”

St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen slammed the door on Arizona with a 1-2-3 ninth, setting down pinch hitter Chris Donnels, Tony Womack and Junior Spivey in succession.

Responding to a question about why he didn’t bring in Erubiel Durazo to face Isringhausen to begin the ninth, Brenly said the lefty slugger would’ve been used later in the inning if the opportunity came up.

Arizona ended its 14-inning scoring drought in the eighth inning. Greg Colbrunn reached on an error by St. Louis third baseman Albert Pujols, a high chopper that nipped his glove. With two outs, Quinton McCracken delivered a game-tying double to right.

Trailing 1-0 in the seventh with two outs and Schilling up next, Brenly opted for offense and brought in righty pinch hitter Chad Moeller against Steve Kline, a lefty.

Moeller lined the first pitch up the middle for a single and Womack followed with a walk. St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa yanked Kline and brought in righty Rick White to face Spivey.

Spivey worked the count to 3-2 before slapping a grounder to a charging Scott Rolen as Alex Cintron, who pinch-ran for Moeller, came racing toward third. Cintron collided with Rolen and was called for runner interference to quell the rally.

Rolen left the game and was diagnosed with a left shoulder sprain, necessitating Pujols’ move from left field to third base.

“You can’t point the finger at Alex,” Spivey said, adding that he was sure Rolen would have made the play. “I was the guy with the bat in my hands. I couldn’t put it through the hole. I didn’t come through.”

Rolen had X-rays taken at the ballpark, and although they were negative, the Cardinals are not optimistic that the injury is a minor one. He will be re-evaluated today, and LaRussa said it’s “very questionable” that Rolen will play again in this series.

Schilling escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, fanning Jim Edmonds on an 3-2 splitter in the dirt. St. Louis loaded the bases with singles by Matheny and Fernando Vina (who went 4-for-5) and a walk — the first issued by Schilling — to J.D. Drew.

In the third, the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead on a two-out home run to left by Drew on a low-and-away 2-2 fastball by Schilling. It was Drew’s second career postseason homer, the first coming in last season’s NLDS against Arizona in Game 5 (a game-tying solo shot off Schilling — the only run Schilling gave up in the series). Schilling was not shocked Drew tagged him for a round-tripper.

“He’s got so much power,” Schilling said. “You know, I haven’t seen the replay of the one today, but everyone said he was out in front. He’s such a good hitter. He got the ball elevated. That was all he had to do with that pitch.”

Cardinals starter Chuck Finley allowed four hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings before leaving with a muscle cramp in his pitching hand.

The D-backs were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and they stranded runners in every inning except the third, fourth and ninth. In the series, they are batting .206 (14-for-68).

“It’s been a battle,” McCracken said. “Good pitching beats good hitting, and they’ve had the hits that have been falling. We haven’t.”

That can make this a frustrating profession at times.

“I was talking to (Koplove) in the ninth,” Schilling said, “I said, ‘It doesn’t make it easier, but sometimes you do your job here and still get beat.’

“It’s part of competing at this level. You know, it doesn’t make you feel any better, but that’s life.”

And life doesn’t get any easier on Saturday for the reigning World Series champs in a must-win game.