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Lofton's late single eliminates Cards
SAN FRANCISCO -- At long last, Barry Bonds will get his chance.
Kenny Lofton hit an RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning that sent Bonds to his first World Series as the San Francisco Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 Monday night to win the NL championship series.
Bonds did his part in Game 5, hitting a tying sacrifice fly in the eighth off a determined Matt Morris. And now, in his 17th season, baseball's biggest star will finally get a chance to play on baseball's biggest stage.
The first all wild-card World Series will start Saturday night at Anaheim when the Angels take on the Giants.
Bonds, often criticized for being selfish and not interacting with his teammates, led the sprint from the Giants' dugout to congratulate Lofton. The four-time MVP was the first player off the bench to reach him.
"We played great," Bonds said. "We've got a tough series ahead of us. The Angels have been playing great in the clutch. It's going to be down to the wire with them.
"We've got some gusty guys out here, just like the Angels," he said. "Who would've thought two wild-card teams would make it? That's just amazing."
The Cardinals, playing on emotion since the death of Darryl Kile in June, once again could not get a big hit when it counted.
And the Giants took advantage, breaking through against Morris to tie it in the eighth. In the ninth, Morris retired the first two batters before David Bell and Shawon Dunston singled.
At that point, Steve Kline relieved and Lofton pulled the first pitch into right field. Bell scored easily, sending the Giants to their first World Series since 1989 as the sellout crowd of 42,673 erupted at Pacific Bell Park.
Lofton especially enjoyed the party, having been booed at Busch Stadium last week when his objection to an inside pitch triggered a bench-clearing skirmish.
"It's an awesome feeling at this point," Lofton said. "I wanted to get to the playoffs, I wanted to get a ring, and the opportunity came up."
Bonds, at 38, jumped up and down with the NLCS MVP, 37-year-old catcher Benito Santiago. It was his home run in Game 4 that gave the Giants a 3-1 lead in this series.
"This is a dream come true," Santiago said. "I can't be happier than this."
Bonds got the chance of a lifetime in the eighth, coming up with the bases loaded, one out and the Giants down 1-0. The home-run king and first-time batting champion delivered -- sort of -- with a fly ball that evened it.
Tim Worrell, the third Giants reliever, wound up with the win. The Cardinals stuck with Morris until the final batter, letting him pitch in a game that honored his mentor -- Kile.
Morris had a direct impact on the Cardinals breaking a scoreless tie in the seventh.
Blanked for six innings by Kirk Rueter, St. Louis got going against reliever Felix Rodriguez when Mike Matheny opened with a double off Lofton's glove in center.
Morris followed with a nice bunt to the left side and Rodriguez made a poor decision, trying to get Matheny at third when there was no play. The Cardinals, unable to get big hits throughout the series, managed to get a run on Fernando Vina's sacrifice fly.
Morris, hit hard in losing the opener, kept the Giants virtually silent as he zipped through the first nine batters. He held San Francisco hitless until two outs in the fifth, when a double by Bell wound up bringing a howl from Giants manager Dusty Baker and the crowd.
Santiago drew a leadoff walk and was still at first base with two outs when Bell blooped an opposite-field double to right. With third-base coach Sonny Jackson putting up a two-handed stop sign, Santiago bumped into third baseman Miguel Cairo as he rounded the bag and retreated.
The fans wanted an obstruction call to send Santiago home, and so did Baker as he sprung out of the dugout to discuss it with third-base umpire Jeff Nelson. But Nelson's call was absolutely correct, according to Rule 7.06.
The rule states that it's the umpire's judgment on whether a runner would have advanced without the interference. Since right fielder Eduardo Perez was already making an accurate relay throw as Santiago was reaching third base, it was clear he would not have scored.
"I was yelling 'obstruction,' too," said umpire supervisor Steve Palermo, who was in the press box. "It can't get better than this. Jeff Nelson shined tonight. Not only with his call and judgment, but with the application of the rule.
"If he was 100 percent sure that the runner would score, then he would award him home plate," Palermo said.
Morris made sure no one scored when he got Rueter on a comebacker, and he left the mound while the crowd booed.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, could not break through against Rueter, who won the opener at Busch Stadium. Perez, taking the place of slumping Tino Martinez in the lineup, ended the first and third innings by stranding two runners both times.
Notes: Morris raised the ire of fans when he hit Lofton in the back with his pitch in the fourth. Plate umpire Tim Welke immediately stepped in front of Lofton, who took his time getting down to first base. ... Martinez is stuck in a 2-for-25 postseason slump. ... Giants RF Reggie Sanders, just 5-for-34 in this year's playoffs, sat down and was replaced by Tom Goodwin. ... There have been three all-California World Series: Giants-Athletics in 1989, Dodgers-A's in 1988 and Dodgers-A's in 1974.