Throughout the post-season, Tony LaRussa has been praised for his in-game strategy, and rightly so – on multiple occasions, his aggressiveness turned a game in St Louis’ favor. Every now and then, however, his moves backfire. Call it the law of averages catching up to him. It happened during the season, and it happened in Game 2.
Last night, the decision to remove Jason Motte with second and third and no out is the one that doomed the Cardinals. With Josh Hamilton due, LaRussa opted to go with Arthur Rhodes. Hamilton is suffering from a groin injury even he admitted would have placed him on the DL if it was earlier in the season. Hamilton is not a threat to drive the ball, and if he can’t turn his lower body he likely can’t catch up to a good fastball.
Rhodes faced him in Game 1, and after falling behind him 2-0 and 3-1, retired the 201o AL MVP on a fly ball to center. That fact alone should have given LaRussa pause. In Game 2, all the Rangers needed was a fly ball to tie the game. What the Cardinals really needed in that situation was a strikeout. Motte possesses the necessary hard stuff to get that strike out. And, with runners already in scoring position (having advanced as far as they could without scoring), Motte would just have to worry about the hitter and no baserunning. Motte seemed the better choice in that situation.
Obviously that’s not how it happened. Rhodes allowed a sacrifice fly to Hamilton, and the runner on second (Elvis Andrus) advanced to third. Lance Lynn came in and allowed a sacrifice fly to Michael Young, scoring Andrus. The Rangers won 2-1. Given that the Cardinals were three outs away from a 2-0 lead in the series, this was a tough loss to take.
But all is not lost. This series is far from over. If this Cardinals team has proven anything over their past eight weeks, it is that they are resilient. The last devastating, season-ending loss St Louis suffered happened on 22 September against the Mets. I’m sure you remember – St Louis blew a 4-run lead in the ninth and lost that day 8-6. The lost the next day too; then won four of their last five to finish the season.
If they close like that over the next 5 games they win the World Series.
One other thing to consider. Perhaps this World Series had to go this way. St Louis has hosted the first two games of the Fall Classic seven times (including this year). In every other year – 1982, 1964, 1946, 1944, 1942, and 1931 – they split the first two games at home. Every other year they had home field advantage, they eventually won the World Series.
Tony LaRussa will learn from his Game 2 mistakes. The team will rebound. There are at least three games left, and anything can happen.
Mike Metzger is an I-70 contributor and life-long Cardinals fan watching the Fall Classic from the edge of his couch. He writes Padres Trail, a San Diego Padres blog. Follow Mike on Twitter @metzgermg.