Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

GIANT-CARDINAL REPORT

La Russa Leaves Open Chance for Rolen Return

October 09, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ST. LOUIS — It was assumed that St. Louis Cardinal third baseman Scott Rolen, suffering from a sprained left shoulder, was out of the National League championship series, which matches the Cardinals against the San Francisco Giants beginning tonight.

St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa thought so. But Tuesday, he wasn't so sure.

La Russa, while definitely ruling Rolen out of the first two games of the best-of-seven series, said he is considering adding Rolen to his roster, thinking that the third baseman could return later in the series.

Rolen was injured in the division series against the Arizona Diamondbacks when pinch-runner Alex Cintron collided with him while Rolen was trying to field a grounder.

"[Monday] I thought he had no chance," La Russa said. "Now, I would say it's not impossible that he could be back. He's got more flexibility and mobility in his shoulder than he did [Monday], which is a lot more than two days before that."

After being obtained from the Philadelphia Phillies in a late July trade, Rolen hit .278 for the Cardinals in 55 games with 14 home runs and 44 runs batted in.

La Russa would love to have Rolen, but if he puts him on the roster and Rolen doesn't come back, La Russa will have left his team a player short.

"It's really a tough call," La Russa said.

*

Not so tough is the call on right-hander Woody Williams.

Williams, who was left off the St. Louis roster for the division series because of a pulled abdominal muscle, has recovered enough to not only make the roster for this series but will start Game 2.

His 2.53 earned-run average was the best among Cardinal starters this season.

*

There was no question that the Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves in the fifth and deciding game of their division series.

But there was a question of how much they won by.

With the score 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth at Atlanta's Turner Field, the Braves had Rafael Furcal at third and Julio Franco at first. When Chipper Jones hit a grounder to the right side, first baseman J.T. Snow stepped on the bag, removing the force play, then, with Franco on his way to second, fired the ball to Giant shortstop Rich Aurilia.

As Franco stopped between first and second, Furcal started for home.

When Aurilia tagged Franco, the game was over. As the Giants celebrated, the scoreboard showed the final score as 3-2. After a conference in the press box, it was changed back to 3-1.

If Furcal had scored before the tag was applied, his run would have counted.

The problem was, Furcal, seeing the game was over, never touched home plate.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOXES)

GIANT ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS: It starts, of course, with Barry Bonds, who has gone from a postseason bust in the past to the focal point of every opposing team this season. A second big gun is second baseman Jeff Kent (.313, 37 HR, 108 RBIs). Closer Robb Nen has had more than 40 saves in four of the last five seasons and showed he can be just as effective in the postseason by shutting down the Braves twice.

WEAKNESSES: The lack of a balanced lineup. Other than Bonds and Kent, nobody hit .300. And the lack of an overpowering rotation. No starter won 15 games.

KEY RESERVES: INF Ramon Martinez (.271, 4 HR, 25 RBI), OF Tom Goodwin (.260, 1 HR, 17 RBI), C Yorvit Torrealba (.279, 2 HR, 14 RBI).

TEAM BATTING IN FIRST ROUND: .247

TEAM EARNED-RUN AVERAGE IN FIRST ROUND: 4.70

*

CARDINAL ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS: How strong is the Cardinal offense? St. Louis hit .268 in the regular season, second in the league to the Colorado Rockies. But perhaps even more impressive was St. Louis' performance in the first round of the playoffs. The Cardinals beat Randy Johnson and survived Curt Schilling of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

WEAKNESSES: There are question marks hanging over two key players. Third baseman Scott Rolen, a late-season sparkplug, has a sprained left shoulder and may not be activated. Pitcher Woody Williams will start Game 2, but he is coming off a pulled abdominal muscle.

KEY RESERVES: IF/OF Miguel Cairo (.250, 2 HR, 23 RBI), OF Eduardo Perez (.201, 10 HR, 26 RBI).

TEAM BATTING IN FIRST ROUND: .314

TEAM EARNED-RUN AVERAGE IN FIRST ROUND: 1.33

*

KEYS TO THE SERIES

If the Cardinals can take Bonds out of the series by taking the bat out of his hands, then they figure to win. But that won't happen if the rest of the Giant lineup can assume its share of the offensive load, forcing St. Louis to deal with Bonds. An effective return of the two injured Cardinals--Rolen and Williams--could make the difference for St. Louis on offense and defense. If Rolen doesn't come back, Miguel Cairo's play at third will be a key. There are also intangibles working on both sides. The Cardinals have dedicated the season to pitcher Darryl Kile and broadcaster Jack Buck, both of whom died during the season. The Giants have vowed to get Bonds the one thing in the game he doesn't have: A World Series ring. The Cardinals, deeper and more talented, have the edge.

Records: Cardinals swept the Diamondbacks in the first round, Giants beat the Braves in five games.

Head to head: Cardinals, 4-2.

Steve Springer

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|