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World Series: Tony La Russa, Cardinals Have Bullpen Phone Problems And Botch Hitting Plays

Tony La Russa

RONALD BLUM   10/25/11 02:50 AM ET   AP

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cardinals couldn't get any key hits. Then again, they hardly got much right in a World Series game that turned slapstick for St. Louis.

Matt Holliday and Co. went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and their average was hardly much better with signs to baserunners and calls to the bullpen.

"It's not good to be down 3-2," Lance Berkman said after a 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday night in which the Cardinals were done in by man and machine. "We'd rather be up 3-2, but we feel good."

Albert Pujols apparently called for a hit-and-run with the score 2-all in the seventh inning, then didn't swing as Allen Craig got caught stealing second.

What could have been an inning-ending, double-play grounder by David Murphy bounced off lefty Marc Rzepczynski and rolled toward second for an infield hit that brought up Mike Napoli with the bases loaded. His two-run double in the eighth put the Rangers ahead.

Pujols struck out in the ninth as Napoli threw out Craig trying to steal second again.

"We had chances but didn't come through," Pujols said. "Nothing you can do. Day off tomorrow and get ready to play on Wednesday."

And, it turns out, the Cardinals even botched their calls to the bullpen. Twice.

"It's a really tough loss because we had the opportunity to add the runs where you can make a mistake ... and you still win the game," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "So it's a very disappointing, frustrating loss."

On a night that was more Abbott & Costello than Tinker to Evers to Chance, the game will be remembered for a reach-out-and-touch-someone moment that La Russa would rather forget.

When he went to the mound to relieve Rzepczynski, he was shocked to find Lance Lynn had come in to pitch.

"I went, `Oh, what are you doing here?'" La Russa said.

So much for the email, text-message age. La Russa had called bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist to have Jason Motte start warming up. Lilliquist didn't hear La Russa correctly.

"I thought it was Lynn," Lilliquist said.

Was Napoli supposed to face Rzepczynski or Motte?

La Russa insisted it was Motte. Lilliquist said Rzepczynski would have faced Napoli anyway.

"It must be loud," La Russa said. "I give the fans credit."

When Murphy's grounder bounced away from Rzepczynski, La Russa lifted his blue hat right off his head, in amazement and frustration, arching his eyebrows.

This wasn't what he meant before the game when he said he would tip his cap to the Rangers if they proved to be the better team.

Yadier Molina hit an RBI single in the second and Skip Schumaker followed with a run-scoring groundout against C.J. Wilson as St. Louis built a 2-0 lead for Chris Carpenter.

But the Cardinals stranded 12 runners, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and seventh.

Wilson pinned a runner at third in the third when Holliday grounded into an inning-ending double play, and the lefty got Holliday to ground out with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth.

St. Louis left runners at second and third when Scott Feldman struck out Nick Punto to end the sixth. In the seventh, Craig walked with one out and Pujols apparently called for a hit-and-run on an 0-1 pitch.

He didn't swing, and Craig was thrown out.

"It was a mix-up, and that's all I'm going to say," was La Russa's explanation. "On our team, nobody gets thrown under the bus."

Said Pujols: "I don't want to tell you. .. That's secret. I can't tell you how I play my game."

Pujols is 0 for 12 in the Series other than his 5-for-6, three-homer, six-RBI performance in Game 3. He was intentionally walked in the seventh for the third time in the game – this time with no one on. After a single by Holliday and an intentional walk to Berkman, David Freese flied out on the next pitch.

Then, after Allen Craig was hit by Neftali Feliz's pitch leading off the ninth, Pujols struck out as Craig was caught stealing second again.

When the Series resumes Wednesday night in St. Louis, Jaime Garcia starts for the Cardinals and Colby Lewis for the Rangers. The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of rain. St. Louis could use some extra time to regroup.

After beating Wilson in last week's opener, Carpenter gave up solo homers to Mitch Moreland in the third and Adrian Beltre in the sixth, starting the Texas comeback. He allowed six hits in seven innings, struck out four and walked two.

It was 2-all when Texas put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth on Michael Young's leadoff double against loser Octavio Dotel and a one-out intentional walk to Nelson Cruz.

Murphy's infield hit off Rzepczynski loaded the bases for the right-handed-hitting Napoli, who drove the ball to the gap in right-center to raise his Series average to .309 with two homers and nine RBIs. The Rangers ran out of the dugout to celebrate.

Would Motte have faced Napoli had he been warmed up?

La Russa said yes, Lilliquist said no.

Rzepczynski wasn't surprised he was left in.

"Not at all, especially with the lefty being on deck. I've done that all year, where if there's a righty in between, I'm going to go out there and get the chance to get the righty out," he said.

Motte wasn't aware of the mix-up until reporters asked in the postgame clubhouse.

"I go out there. The phone rings, and we get going when we're told," he said. "I started throwing when I was told to start throwing."

Lilliquist thought the mix-up didn't make much of a difference, that La Russa wanted Rzepczynski to face Napoli.

"It's basically miscommunication. It was loud. A lot of places are like that," he said. "The phone is as good as any phone."

La Russa said the first time he called the bullpen in the ninth, he wanted two pitchers to get warm.

"They heard Rzepczynski, and they didn't get Motte. I looked up there and Motte wasn't going," he said. "So I called back for Motte, and they got Lynn up."

Rzepczynski struck out Moreland, and once Lynn came in, he intentionally walked Ian Kinsler before Motte finally relieved.

He struck out Elvis Andrus. By then, the damage had been done.

"We have nothing to be worry about," Molina said. "We're going back to St. Louis to win at home."

And perhaps La Russa will find a new method of signaling his bullpen.

"Yeah, smoke signals from the dugout," he said.

NOTES: Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach bounced the ceremonial first pitch. ... Furcal, who turned 34 on Monday, led off the game with a liner to Beltre at third, just as he did in Game 4. This was an easier play, with the third baseman not having to leap. Furcal turned and slashed his bat through the air in frustration.

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Filed by Chris Greenberg  |