Chess Match: Cards' strategy wins out
St. Louis hits on all cylinders in Motor City Game 1 victory
DETROIT -- With Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa managerial soul brothers, the World Series approached as a strategist's dream. Any tight game was sure to offer a menu of moves to pick apart.As the Cardinals opened up a six-run lead by the sixth inning, however, Game 1 was strictly a la carte. Hindsight brought one of Leyland's decisions into question, and his shortsighted faith in a rookie starter raised another. Going with the kid
The situation: The six-day layoff since the American League Championship Series gave Leyland the luxury of setting up his rotation any way he wanted. The decision: Leyland chose to open up with rookie Justin Verlander, lining up three experienced starters behind him, including Kenny Rogers, who has been plugged into the energy of Comerica Park fans all postseason. The outcome: Verlander displayed the stuff that carried him to 17 wins, with eight strikeouts in five-plus innings. But he was also touched for seven runs, and made a costly throwing error on an attempted pickoff. The skinny: "I feel comfortable with Justin. We decided that if we were playing the Cardinals, he would go in Game 1. Basically, we wanted Kenny to pitch two games at home, [Games] 2 and 6, if it goes that far. So that's why that decision was made." -- Leyland "I got Game 1, and I feel I let my guys down a little bit." -- Verlander Tigers ignore an opening
The situation: The Cardinals had just taken their first lead of the game, but Chris Duncan's RBI double with two outs in the third did appear to have a bit of a bright side -- it left first base open with Albert Pujols coming up. The decision: Leyland's instructions to Verlander were to offer a couple of pitches off the plate, hoping an overanxious Pujols might chase; if not, they'd complete an intentional walk. The outcome: Verlander's first pitch wasn't far enough outside, and Pujols hammered it over the right-field fence for a 4-1 lead. The skinny: "I didn't want to pitch around him. I wanted to make quality pitches. I didn't want to give him anything to hit, but certainly wasn't going to walk him on purpose. It was not a bad pitch ... to most people. But he's one of the best hitters in the game." -- Verlander "If they decide to pitch around me, I know that those guys [behind me, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen] can drive it in. It's so tough when you have a guy throwing 95 to 99 miles an hour to think too much when you're at the plate. I just try to see the ball, put a good swing on it, and that's what I did." -- Pujols "I'll take full responsibility for that. We weren't supposed to pitch to him, give him anything he could hit, but Justin got too much of the plate. With a young pitcher like that, I'll take the blame there." -- Leyland, in his in-game FOX interview Duncan, go nuts
The situation: The availability of the designated hitter in an AL ballpark gave La Russa a new option, and a new dilemma in assembling his lineup. The decision: Chris Duncan was inserted as the DH, and given a prominent place in the lineup, in the two-hole in front of Pujols. The outcome: Duncan ripped a two-out double in the third that snapped a 1-1 tie and gave the Cardinals a lead they never relinquished. His only hit of the game may have been the night's biggest. The skinny: "The way it works is that Chris has given us a great lift. It's been a real treat to watch him." -- La Russa "Duncan ... that was the biggest pitch of the night. Changeup, up. If he doesn't get that hit there, it could've been a totally different game. Maybe stays a one-run game." -- Verlander
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.