Tony LaRussa must have the Mad Cow. The future Hall of Fame manager who renowned for micromanaging games inning by inning seems to have lost his managerial mojo and isn’t admitting it. Now the Texas Rangers who have played excellent baseball are one game from winning their first World Series.
The first thing that mystified me were the unexplainable steal attempts and mix ups on the base paths that killed the Cardinals chances of blowing open the game. One of the most puzzling plays was when in the 7th inning Pujols called a hit and run with Allen Craig on first and Alexi Ogando pitching him carefully. Pujols did not swing at a high pitch that was way out of the strike zone and Craig was caught stealing. Ron Washington then had Ogando intentionally walk Pujols to get the Matt Holliday who has been in a World Series funk, hitting just .167. Holliday singled and Lance Berkman was intentionally walked to load the bases but David Freese flew out to center to end the inning. In the 9th with Neftali Feliz pitching and Pujols at bat with no outs Craig ran as Pujols struck out swinging and was thrown out at second to complete a double play. The Cardinals left 12 men on base including 8 in scoring position and as the game progressed I knew that the Cardinals were going to find a way to lose the game. It didn’t matter how well Chris Carpenter pitched or how well their defense played as the game moved on I knew that the blown scoring attempts were going to doom the Redbirds Monday night.
But the real mystery was the 8th inning. With the game tied and one out with Michael Young on second base LaRussa had ace set up man Octavio Dotel intentionally walk Nelson Cruz. He then sent in left hander Marc Rzepczynski to face David Murphy. I guess that the idea was to set up a double play but Murphy hit an infield single sending which loaded the bases with Mike Napoli coming to the plate.
Napoli has been hotter than exploding napalm during the post season and has been feasting on left handed pitching. And this is where the game gets even weirder. With Napoli coming to the plate one would expect to have LaRussa send a right handed pitcher to the mound, someone like Jason Motte. But no right hander emerged in fact none were even warming up. This forced Rzepczynski to have to face Napoli who hit a double into the gap in right center field scoring two runs and giving the Cardinals their first lead of the night. Rzepczynski stayed in the game and struck out Mitch Moreland to get the second out. With the horses out of the barn a right hander came in but it was not Motte, it was Lance Lynn who was only supposed to pitch in an emergency situation. LaRussa had Lynn intentionally walk Ian Kinsler to get Motte some warm up time. Motte finally entered the game and struck out Elvis Andrus to end the inning.
LaRussa said after the game that he had wanted Rzepczynski and Motte up but Bullpen Coach Derek Lilliquist said that he did not understand LaRussa due to the crowd noise. When LaRussa called to get Motte up Lilliquist claimed that he misunderstood and sent up Lynn who was not supposed to pitch. To make matters worse, Dotel said that he was surprised that he was not allowed to pitch to Nelson Cruz.
With all that said and all the second guessing and the convoluted explanations aside the Cardinals did not put runners across the plate. They should have won the game going away. The single off Rzepczynski in the 8th took an angle that he did not seem to anticipate and it could have been a double play ball and there would have been no “Bullpengate.”
Game 6 is scheduled for Wednesday night inSt Louis. However rain is in the forecast and there is a possibility that it could be postponed. Colby Lewis will get the start for the Rangers and Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals. Both pitched well in game 2 and the Cardinals have the advantage of playing at home and by National League rules which means with no Designated Hitter that Texas will have one less big bat in the lineup. This will be a game of bullpens and pinch hitters; I don’t expect either pitcher to go 7-8 innings as happened in games 4 and 5 in Texas. However the Cardinals have to win both games and Texas has not lost two games in a row in a month and a half, but this is where the Cardinals play their best ball and of the 10 World Series titles the Cardinals have won in their illustrious history they were down 3 games to 2 in three of them. I still think it goes 7 games but the Cardinals and LaRussa have to get their grove back on. If not their miracle season will become a memorable footnote in MLB history.