La Russa offers insight to marathon moves
Cards' tactical decisions hot topic after 20-inning game
ST. LOUIS -- In 20 innings of baseball on Saturday night, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had a slew of tactical decisions to make, and as a result he had even more questions to answer after the game and on Sunday. The Cards' 2-1 loss to the Mets featured plenty of turning points and odd moments, and on Sunday afternoon, La Russa went into some depth about his thinking at some of the key moments.
The move that garnered the most discussion on Sunday came in the 11th inning, when La Russa double-switched Matt Holliday out of the game. That left the pitcher batting fourth, which essentially took Albert Pujols out of the game. Pujols was intentionally walked twice after the move.
"I know as soon as you take Holliday out of the game," La Russa said, "if that isn't resolved quickly, they're no dummies over there [and Pujols will be walked]. But like I said yesterday, there are no regrets."
Asked whether there was a way to remove Holliday, who was ill, while also having a position player hit fourth, La Russa said he did not see a viable way to do that.
"Then you'd have had to use two players," he said. "the only move would have been [to remove Ryan] Ludwick, and keep [Holliday] in there. He's coughing, he's got a fever and he's got five at-bats. He struck out three times and a popup -- other than [protecting myself against criticism], there was no reason to leave him in there. ... There's really no other way to do it, unless you take out two guys."
La Russa's thoughts on other topics from the marathon game:
On putting on a hit-and-run play with Pujols against Francisco Rodriguez in the 19th: "To me, it's what we've done before. If it's a terrible pitch and the guy [is slow to the plate], the guy can steal second -- and should have stolen second. But the way they were pitching [Pujols], if you hadn't done that, they might have walked him and it would have been first and second and you could bunt the pitcher. But I thought we had two shots by sending him, because Albert can get a base hit with the best of them. If he had just slid through the bag instead of around it, we would have been safe."
On whether he considered having a starting pitcher appear in relief: "No. No."
On whether he considered having Skip Schumaker bunt with runners on second and third in the 14th inning: "Rarely do you squeeze with nobody out, because there are a lot of bad outcomes. You bunt through it, the guy is out at third. Then you've got the guy at third with one out if he's running, too. ... You pop the bunt up, you get a double play.
"I felt like, Skip's a guy that started the game off with a double off of Santana. I thought he'd get a hit. If not, you know it was going to come down to [No. 2 hitter] Ludwick, and I thought Ludwick had a hell of a chance."
On why he removed infielder Felipe Lopez, who pitched well, for infielder/outfielder Joe Mather in the 19th: "After one inning, [Lopez's] arm started to get heavy. Mather, he's all-purpose, he comes to the park ready to do whatever."
On whether, if he were the visiting manager in such a game, he would use his closer in a non-save situation: "Let's say you've got [Jose] Reyes, [Luis] Castillo, [David] Wright, [Jason] Bay coming up. You figure, if I get them out in the bottom of the 10th, they're coming up in the top of the 11th and he can save it [in the bottom of the 11th], and you've got a chance to score with those guys. As long as you have some innings behind him -- if you have one innings guy. But normally, I think you have to save your closer."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.