Tony LaRussa called down to the bullpen while Octavio Dotel was struggling with the whole “making good pitches” thing, and he asked that Jason Motte start warming up. Somehow, the Cardinal bullpen coach, Derek Lilliquist, allegedly heard “Rzepcynski” instead of “Motte”. Astutely, LaRussa saw that Motte was not the one warming up, and he called down to the bullpen again to ask for “Motte”. This time, Lilliquist allegedly heard “Lynn”. The wheels promptly came off the team bus, and the rest is history.
Of course, that is assuming that you really buy what LaRussa is selling. His post-game press conference last night was a classic one. TLR went into lawyer/magician combo mode and befuddled and bemused the media folks to no end. He had people focusing most of the time on the bullpen communication “problem” instead of the missed opportunities. He was the ultimate snake oil salesman, and he did it all with a straight face. Underneath the facade, his brain had to be going into overdrive to keep the story straight. “Motte” confused with “Rzepczynski”? Sure. That’s the audible equivalent of your taste buds confusing liver for grouper. “Motte” and “Lynn”? Why not? That completely works, if you can convince the world that Lilliquist was sitting in the bullpen listening to N.W.A, 2 Live Crew, and recorded sounds of pigeons passing gas. I don’t personally know Lilliquist, but I don’t recall seeing him wearing any earbuds in the bullpen recently.
TLR was just being TLR. He didn’t throw guys under the bus for failing to come through with runners in scoring position. He didn’t allow too much focused attention on the hit-and-run attempts that failed in epic fashion. He wasn’t about to spend a lot of time trying to explain questionable decisions to bunt and give free outs to the Rangers. Nope.
Let’s get something straight, though. This wasn’t Lilliquist’s fault. Sure, he knew that Lynn was “unavailable”, but that doesn’t change anything for him. If LaRussa calls down to the bullpen and says that it’s time to warm up Skip Schumaker or have Westbrook start tossing left-handed, then that’s what he does. No questions asked. If Marty Mason was still in that same position, he would have done the same thing, albeit with a few things to say about the issue later on. No, if Lilliquist really thought he heard “Rzepczynski” and then later on “Lynn”, then the only thing he is guilty of is failure to stop by Miracle Ear on the way to the ballpark. Even that is a stretch, though. Credit goes to the Texas crowd for making so much noise that a communication mix-up seems like a rationale explanation to some people.
Then again, I’m not “some people”. There was most certainly some confusion, but how on earth do you not make sure that you get this right….twice? After the first incident, the guys in the dugout should have been standing on dugout steps while spelling out “Motte” with their arms and legs. After the game, LaRussa jokingly suggested that smoke signals might be a solution for the problem. While I appreciate the humor and applaud him for not suggesting 2 tin cans connected by a string, it really is difficult to find humor in the situation. Kudos to TLR for not singling out anybody for poor performances last night. Protecting his guys is something he has shown that he can do quite well (unless you happened to be named Rasmus). However, since he won’t single anybody out, I will.
- Rafael Furcal has 3 hits in 20 at-bats in the World Series, and he is hitting leadoff. He’s just doing his job, but why is he batting leadoff? This one is on TLR.
- The Cardinals stranded a record 27 runners on base last night. Pretty much everybody deserves some “credit” for failing to plate more than 2 runs. (Hyperbole warning: only 26 runners were stranded)
- Matt Holliday just looks off his game, and he missed at least 2 pitches last night that hung over the plate. I seriously doubt that TLR will even consider dropping him in the order, but I’d rather see David Freese, Yadier Molina, or Lance Berkman hitting cleanup right now. If this thing goes 7 games, Albert Pujols may not see another ball near the regular strike zone the entire time.
Game 6 Wishlist:
- Allen Craig is hitting .250 for the series, but his OBP is .438. Why not switch Furcal and Craig at the top of the order? That splits up the right-handed bats a bit and puts Furcal in position to advance Craig on a double with a bunt, if the Cardinals need just a single run late in the game. At the same time, maybe being protected by Pujols will help Furcal get going.
- No more bunts when the opposing pitcher is struggling with command issues. Also, no more bunts that lead to obvious intentional walks. Oh, and no more bunts with nobody out. Finally, let’s just go with no more bunts by pinch hitters. Never mind, let’s just outlaw the bunt when the game situation does not dictate playing for a single run. Big innings are nice, but they are not usually the product of giving away an out just for fun.
- Rain. Lots of it. I’m not asking for anything that requires ark building, but 3 or 4 days of rain would be nice. The extra rest might be good for Jaime Garcia, and it would open up the possibility that Chris Carpenter could start a game 7 (if necessary). If you know a good rain dance, now is the time to start stepping up.
In retrospect, the Cardinals lost game 5, because they failed to execute in critical situations. Now they face the proposition of playing at least 1 elimination game. Based on the last 2 months, that’s exactly where they seem most comfortable. Let’s just hope that trend continues.
TIDBIT: I have no issue with Rzepcysnki facing Mike Napoli, and the matchup issue of a left-handed pitcher facing a right-handed hitter in that situation is basically irrelevant. During the 2011 regular season, Napoli put up a batting line of .320/.407/.637/.1.044 against righties, but he also hit lefties to the tune of .319/.430/.619/.1049. If Lynn is actually available to pitch, then I do like the matchup of him against Napoli a bit better, but I don’t think it’s quite the automatic decision that some may thing.
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