ST. LOUIS -- As the Cardinals ran onto the field to celebrate their sweep of Arizona in the NL division series, Matt Morris remembered to carry the No. 57 jersey of Darryl Kile.
''We did it for D.K.,'' Miguel Cairo said. ''I know in our hearts he was here.''
After getting past Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, St. Louis quickly and emotionally finished off the defending World Series champions.
Cairo, starting in place of injured Scott Rolen, drove in two runs and scored twice as the Cardinals beat the Diamondbacks 6-3 Saturday night to complete a three-game sweep in the NL division series.
Kile, a former 20-game winner, died in June, just four days after longtime Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck.
''Sometimes it's hard,'' Cairo said, ''but we're going to keep going, we're going to keep going to work for him.''
The Cardinals had inspired play down the stretch, also winning 21 of its last 25 in the regular season, and now has advanced to the NL championship series for the second time in three years.
''I wasn't trying to put pressure on myself,'' Cairo said. ''I was just trying to take it like a regular game, relax and have fun. It was excellent approach.''
It was typical for the Cardinals, who kept adjusting en route to the NL Central title. They were forced to use 14 starting pitchers and 26 overall.
Now they've advanced to the NL championship series, against Atlanta or San Francisco starting Wednesday.
''We really wanted to try to win it and get some rest before the next round,'' leadoff hitter Fernando Vina said. ''We didn't want to face Randy and Curt, we wanted to get it over with.''
There's no telling when Rolen will return to the Cardinals lineup. The All-Star third baseman sprained his left shoulder in Game 2, which Cairo won with an RBI single.
The Diamondbacks, who won the World Series in record speed -- it took them only four years -- lost their crown in just three games.
Minus injured star Luis Gonzalez, who separated his shoulder in the final week of the regular season at Busch Stadium, Arizona totaled a mere six runs and 18 hits in the series against St. Louis, the team they beat 3-2 in the first round last year. The Diamondback batted just .184.
''Our bats were silent an awful lot,'' said David Dellucci, who hit a two-run homer in the second inning. ''That's something this team's not used to. But you have to look at the people they had on the mound.''
The Diamondbacks also missed Craig Counsell and Danny Bautista, two more injured players.
''It puts a strain on the offense,'' manager Bob Brenly said. ''It gives the opposition the opportunity to pitch around the hitters they think can hurt them the most. It started to show up at the end of the season, and really here in the playoffs.''
Earlier Saturday, the New York Yankees were eliminated from the AL playoffs. Without the Diamondbacks and Yankees, baseball fans are assured of seeing two new teams in the World Series for the first time since 1998.
The Cardinals have swept their way into the NLCS three times since baseball expanded its playoffs in 1995, also taking the Braves in three straight in 2000 and the Padres in 1996.
Counting the regular season, the Cardinals have beaten the Diamondbacks seven straight times, including a victory over Johnson in Game 1. Schilling started Game 2, and St. Louis won after he departed.
Cairo tacked on a run-scoring double in the eighth as the Cardinals scored twice off Byung-Hyun Kim. Pinch-hitter Kerry Robinson added a run-scoring single in the eighth.
Pitcher Andy Benes squeezed home the go-ahead run for St. Louis. Albert Pujols drove in a run and saved a run with his second outfield assist to highlight this victory.
Pujols saved a 4-3 lead in the fifth when he threw out Chris Donnels at the plate from left field on Steve Finley's two-out hit.
Manager Tony La Russa started Pujols, who led the team with 127 RBIs in the regular season, in left field instead of at third base to allow him to concentrate more on hitting.
Cairo had an RBI single in the second off Miguel Batista.
The St. Louis bullpen overcame a wild outing from Benes, who got the start in Game 3 in place of injured Woody Williams.
Benes walked four and gave up a pair of homers, Dellucci's two-run shot in the second and a solo drive in the fifth by Rod Barajas that cut the Diamondbacks' deficit to 4-3.
The homers were the only hits allowed in 4 2-3 innings by Benes, who entered with a string of 17 consecutive scoreless innings.
Benes' biggest contribution was a squeeze bunt in the fourth that put the Cardinals ahead to stay at 3-2. Benes, who batted .206 with a homer and two RBIs this season, kept the Diamondbacks guessing by going in and out of a bunt stance several times before laying one down just past the plate on a 3-1 pitch as Cairo tumbled across the plate.
Vina added an RBI single in the fourth to chase Batista, the loser. He was 2-for-4 in the clincher and 9-for-15 in the series after a somewhat subpar .270 average in the regular season.
''You always want to be confident,'' Vina said. ''As a leadoff hitter the weight is on your shoulders to try to get something going for the ballclub.''
Jeff Fassero (2-0) allowed two hits in 1 1-3 innings, benefiting from Pujols' assist in the fifth, to win his second game of the series. Rick White worked a perfect seventh, Steve Kline pitched a perfect eighth and Jason Isringhausen finished for the save.
Batista was 8-9 with a 4.29 ERA during the regular season, a decided step down from Johnson (24-5) and Schilling (23-7). But Brenly never considered using Johnson on three days' rest, reasoning someone other than his big two would have to beat the Cardinals for the Diamondbacks to advance.
Batista beat the Cardinals in Game 3 last fall but lasted only 3 2-3 innings this time, giving up four runs and five hits.
''The Cardinals just had a great approach,'' Brenly said. ''Most pitchers will tell you they rely on the hitters' aggressiveness, but they stayed disciplined and used short, contact swings.''
Notes: Carole Buck, the widow of longtime Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Jack Buck's longtime sidekick, Mike Shannon, made a barehanded catch on the receiving end. ... The Diamondbacks' Alex Cintron was booed heavily in pregame introductions. Cintron banged into Rolen on the basepaths in Game 2, causing the shoulder injury.
Peninsula Clarion © 2015. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us