Cards Beat D-Backs to Tie Series 1-1

Thursday, October 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ Two months ago, the St. Louis Cardinals' acquisition of Woody Williams was greeted with a ho-hum.

The Cardinals were no sure thing for the playoffs, and Williams was 8-8 with a 4.97 ERA at San Diego.

Yet his feisty competitiveness injected energy into the Cardinals, and Williams went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA after the Aug. 2 trade.

Then in his first playoff appearance, the 35-year-old right-hander beat Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-1 Wednesday to tie their NL playoff series 1-1.

``It's such an emotional roller coaster, going from not having that much in San Diego to being, in my mind, in one of the best organizations in baseball,'' Williams said. ``As a pitcher who's been through what I've been through, I couldn't ask for anything better or more.''

Except maybe a trip to the World Series.

The Cardinals split against Arizona's dominating duo of Curt Schilling and Johnson and can win the series at home with victories in Game 3 Friday night and Game 4 on Saturday.

``After yesterday's game, we kind of sensed the urgency to make sure we did everything we could to win this game,'' Williams said. ``By no means was Randy Johnson horrible. They have two of the best pitchers I've ever seen and probably ever will see. We're very fortunate to get out of here with a split.''

Despite his collection of Cy Young awards and strikeout records, Johnson has lost a major league record seven postseason games in a row.

``If someone is to blame, I guess I am. I gave up three runs,'' he said. ``It seems like I've been in this position behind a microphone in the postseason every year. I pitched the best I could. It wasn't good enough.''

Johnson was a career-best 21-6 this season. His 372 strikeouts were the third-most in baseball history, and he led the majors with a 2.49 ERA.

But the Big Unit fell to 2-7 overall in the playoffs, with his only victories in the 1995 AL division series for Seattle.

``We didn't score a run until he was out of the ballgame, and if you can't score, you can't win,'' manager Bob Brenly said. ``I think it's unfair to point at that record and infer that somehow it's all Randy's doing. He has pitched well enough in the majority of his postseason games to win if we score any runs for him.''

Williams allowed one run on four hits in seven-plus innings in his playoff debut. He also doubled and scored a run in the third inning and made a lunging stab of Tony Womack's line drive to lead off the sixth.

``One thing our team knew was the guy who was going to take the mound for us has got no fear and is just a dead game competitor,'' St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. ``So based on what we've seen for two months, we thought he'd give us a chance to win.''

Arizona scored once in the eighth after pinch-hit singles by Craig Counsell and Greg Colbrunn, but Luis Gonzalez grounded out to end the inning. Gonzalez, one of the best hitters in the NL all season, is 0-for-8 in the series.

`We're OK,'' Gonzalez insisted. ``We just feel we've left a lot of opportunities on base. We've got to pick up on those things. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. They've got a good pitching staff and they've got some good hitters. We'll just have to regroup and come out Friday swinging the bats.''

Miguel Batista, who still will start on Friday, was one of three relievers used by Brenly in the ninth. With one out and runners at first and third, pinch-hitter Kerry Robinson hit a one-bouncer to Batista.

But the confused pitcher, who probably could have caught the runner at third in a rundown or gone for a double play at second, hesitated, and finally threw to first, pulling Mark Grace off the base. Everyone was safe as the Cardinals' fourth run scored.

Consistently getting ahead of hitters, Williams matched his season-high with nine strikeouts and walked one.

Johnson struck out nine and walked one while allowing three runs on six hits in eight innings. For many pitchers, that would be good enough to win, but lack of run support is nothing new for the Big Unit. In four of his six losses this season, Arizona scored just one.

After Johnson gave up his only walk of the game _ to Edgar Renteria in the first inning _ rookie sensation Albert Pujols' opposite-field homer with two outs gave the Cardinals the only runs they needed.

Notes: La Russa benched Mark McGwire and J.D. Drew in favor of Miguel Cairo and Craig Paquette. Cairo had a career .429 average against Johnson (6-for-14). Drew entered the game in the top of the seventh. ... Arizona's Matt Williams was hitless in three at-bats and was booed by the crowd for the second day in a row. He is 0-for-7 in the series, including three strikeouts. ... After two games, Arizona is batting .210 and has scored two runs, St. Louis is hitting .164 and has scored four. ... With San Diego this season, Williams was 1-2 against the Diamondbacks.