Monday, October 16, 2006

Have The Cards Run Out?

The Cardinals and Mets are now tied at two, and I can't help but feel that the Redbirds blew their best chance to win the pennant last night. In a position to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, they were facing Oliver Perez, at 3-13 perhaps the worst starting pitcher ever for a LCS game--and a guy they owned this season. Furthermore, the game was at Busch, and Perez hadn't won a single game on the road this year. And the Cardinals lost to him.

The shame of it is, I think the game was blown by Tony LaRussa, who up until this point had somehow resisted his overmanaging instincts and done a very nice job of guiding his team through the playoffs. But he just couldn't resist showing his "genius" any longer. Though I know few will agree with me, here's my reasoning for pinning it on TLR: he yanked a starting pitcher, Antonio Reyes, who was doing a serviceable job in a tie game after four innings.

This isn't mere 20/20 hindsight on my part. When LaRussa told Joe Buck after the fourth that Reyes was done, I said to my son, "That doesn't make sense to me. I'd much rather go with the devil I know--a guy throwing an OK game--than the devil I don't know. There's no guarantee you're going to get five good innings out of any bullpen, and if the first guy you bring in stinks, you're in a real mess." You don't change horses midstream when your horse is keeping pace with the others. About a minute later, that kid who looks like he's twelve (I forget his name) started giving up bombs and it was all over. There was nowhere left to run, and all the rest of the bullpen could try to do was mop up.

Willie Randolph understands what I'm talking about, which is why he left Oliver Perez in the game despite the fact that...well, he's Oliver Perez. You don't make the decision based on who he is, you make the decision based on how he's doing. On any given night in baseball, a scrub can turn into Sandy Koufax. Nobody last night was Sandy Koufax, but LaRussa gave the hook to a pitcher who was keeping his team in the game before it was even half over. Randolph stayed with his guy a little longer and got him a win by simply outwaiting LaRussa.

Now the Cards are in a jam. Yes, the series is tied. But tonight's is a must-win game (since you can't expect two win two straight in New York), and they're going against Tom Glavine. Last night was their best chance, and unfortunately Tony couldn't keep his genius in the box for one more night. Tonight I fully expect him to overreact to the loss and go back into full overmanaging mode--bunting Pujols, using every pitcher in his bullpen for those five-hour-game-inducing right/lefty switches, and having the pitcher hit third or something.

Like I said--I'm not getting my hopes up.

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