Blaming the manager when his relievers allow nine runs before getting a fourth out may be missing the point, but La Russa did not help himself in the key innings of last night’s game. He opened the fifth wih Brad Thompson against the 2-3-4 spots in the Mets lineup. An error by Ronnie Belliard, a walk and a home run later, the Cards were down 5-2. Two batters later, after a Shawn Green single, La Russa brought in lefty Randy Flores to get out of the inning.Meanwhile, the other story I took from this weekend -- aside from the unlikely heroics of Jeff Suppan and Jim Edmonds' microcosmic career revue (crash into wall making catch for third out, homer immediately afterwards) -- was the job Darren Oliver did on Saturday evening. My wife and I had friends over for dinner and baseball, among them a Mets fan who had been to the first two games, and after watching the Tigers dramatically finish off the A's to head to the World Series, we were were somewhat disappointed that the NL game appeared to be decided early. So disappointed that we went through five bottles of red wine among the five of us over the next several hours, accompanying our beef fondue and homemade ice cream sandwiches (not the world's healthiest dinner; that's why we needed the red wine, see?). With Steve Trachsel unable to make it out of the second inning and his bullpen in shambles, Mets skipper Willie Randolph turned to Oliver, who after allowing two of Trax's three baserunners to score (still 0.37 runs better than expected) blanked the Cardinals for the rest of his six-inning stint. Tim McCarver took Randolph to task for letting Oliver hit leadoff in an inning instead of yielding to a pinch-hitter, but Randolph was already looking ahead, preserving his tired pen for the next day.
After a David Eckstein homer cut the lead to 5-3, La Russa started the sixth with Josh Hancock, who got hammered: after five batters and no outs, the Cards were down 7-3 with the bases loaded, and La Russa went to Tyler Johnson. The game was over at that point.
Take a look at the usage. La Russa managed to use three pitchers in a 13-batter stretch, one of them Randy Flores... but Carlos Delgado batted twice against right-handers in that span. Flores was brought in at the seven spot, after Delgado and Green had batted and used for two outs. Johnson came in to face Green in the sixth. Twice, La Russa had opportunities to force the middle of the Mets' lineup to face lefties, and twice he went to right-handers.
Platoon matchups aren't everything, although Tony La Russa has spent nearly 20 years managing as if they were. I’m not sure how you use both your lefties in consecutive innings and yet Carlos Delgado doesn’t face either of them. Perhaps it would not have helped anyway, but La Russa did not give the Cardinals the best chance to win last night with his decisions. If you're going to beat the Mets, you start by making Beltran, Delgado and Green bat against lefties in close games.
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