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ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Game 2 in the National League Championship Series is Thursday night with Woody Williams (9-4), who hasn't pitched since Sept. 20 because of a pulled muscle in his left side, starting for St. Louis against Jason Schmidt (13-8).

The Giants won Game 1 on Wednesday 9-6.

Last night, Barry Bonds delivered yet another big hit, then almost got into a real slugfest with the St. Louis Cardinals.

In a postseason that is rapidly becoming all his own, Bonds was in the middle of the action Wednesday night. He lined a two-run triple and later became part of a bench-clearing brouhaha as the San Francisco Giants beat St. Louis 9-6 in the opener of the NL championship series.

Though no punches were thrown, there was plenty of pushing and shoving in the fifth inning after Kenny Lofton, who had admired a home run he'd hit in his previous at-bat, took exception to a high-and-tight fastball. Bonds jawed with the Cardinals as tempers flared.

``My job is to protect my teammates, and I will neutralize it, that's that,'' Bonds said.

Bonds went 1-for-2 with three walks and scored twice. He'd already put his previous playoff failures in the past, hitting three home runs against Atlanta in the opening round.

``The thing this win does, it guarantees us four more games, that's it,'' the four-time MVP said.

Benito Santiago, batting behind Bonds, homered and drove in four runs, and David Bell and Lofton also connected.

It was 6-1 after three innings as the Giants tattooed Matt Morris, and it was a good omen for them _ the team that has won the last nine NLCS openers has reached the World Series.

There were two versions of what started the trouble at Busch Stadium.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said it began because Lofton overreacted to reliever Mike Crudale's pitch _ which nonetheless prompted plate umpire Randy Marsh to issue warnings against future brushbacks.

``That was very unnecessary. It's a trick I've seen him pull before,'' La Russa said. ``It caused a lot of stirring around and people saying nasty things to each other.''

Lofton, naturally, disagreed. He said Crudale was to blame.

``This is the playoffs, you have fun, you enjoy it. I don't think I did anything wrong,'' Lofton said. ``We were kicking their butts, and they wanted to do something to upset me.''

Lofton had to be restrained by several teammates, a coach and an umpire.

``I don't think I overreacted,'' Lofton said.

As players sprinted toward the plate, Bonds and Cardinals reserve Eduardo Perez had to be separated, with Cardinals reliever Steve Kline pacifying the Giants slugger.

La Russa and Giants manager Dusty Baker, who a day earlier gushed about how much they liked each other, started screaming in an animated exchange that forced a pair of umpires to pull them apart.

About the only one to keep cool was Kirk Rueter. Born and raised right across the Mississippi River, he kept winning at the ballpark where he rooted for the Cardinals as a kid.

The big lead enabled the Giants to hold off a rally fueled by home runs from Albert Pujols, surprising Miguel Cairo and pinch-hitter J.D. Drew. Robb Nen pitched the ninth for a save.

Down 1-0, Morris retired the first two batters in the second. But the Giants followed with six straight hits, with Lofton singling, stealing second and scoring on Rich Aurilia's single. Kent followed with a single, and that brought up Bonds.

Bonds timed a hanging curve and lined a one-hop drive off the right-center field wall for a two-run triple, and an RBI single by Santiago made it 5-0.

``Batting behind that man, I'm going to have a lot of chances to do damage,'' Santiago said.

Lofton struck again with a solo homer in the third, standing near the plate to watch his drive sail over the right-field fence. The speedster casually flipped his bat aside before beginning his trot.

Bell's solo homer made it 7-1 in the fifth and finished Morris. One batter later, Lofton spun out of the way of Crudale's first pitch. Lofton shouted at Crudale before starting to yell at catcher Mike Matheny.

``I don't think he overacted,'' Baker said. ``If there had been a thing, somebody would have come to blows or something. There was no thing.''

It took a few minutes to restore order. Giants reserve Shawon Dunston, formerly with the Cardinals, eventually settled down Lofton. Dunston also stepped away with his teammate and showed Lofton how he had styled after the home run _ Lofton seemed to disagree with Dunston's imitation, but the point was made.

The 52,175 fans cheered loudly when Lofton flied out, and the crowd was revved up the rest of the way.

Cairo, starting in place of injured Scott Rolen, hit a two-run homer in the bottom half. The hit made him 7-for-7 in this year's playoffs before striking out.

Notes: Rueter is 5-0 in nine regular-season starts at Busch. ... Paul McCartney was in town, giving a concert a few blocks away. Cardinals president Mark Lamping invited the former Beatle to take part in the festivities, but the singer couldn't make it. ... Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight, one of La Russa's close friends, was in the Cardinals' clubhouse before the game. ... St. Louis 1B Tino Martinez was 0-for-13 in this year's playoffs before singling in the sixth. ... The last time a team won the NLCS opener and didn't go to the World Series was 1991, when Bonds and the Pirates beat Atlanta in Game 1.