10/27/06 2:17 AM ET
Chess Match: Key plays lift Cardinals
St. Louis gets clutch hits, capitalizes on Tigers' miscues
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
The situation: Cardinals No. 8 hitter Aaron Miles singled with one out in the third, bringing up pitcher Jeff Suppan in an obvious bunting situation. The decision: Instead, with the Cardinals apparently opting to try a hit-and-run, Suppan swung through Jeremy Bonderman's 0-1 pitch. The outcome: Catcher Ivan Rodriguez's throw beats Miles to the bag, but shortstop Carlos Guillen can't handle it cleanly, and Miles is credited with a steal. The payoff for the gamble is a run, as David Eckstein follows with an RBI double to cut into Detroit's 3-0 lead. The skinny: "I don't know what the pitch was -- probably a slider -- but Supe swung through it. Rodriguez threw the ball in the dirt, and [Guillen] tried to scoop it up, but he had no chance." -- Miles One (move) on, two (starters) out
The situation: With the Cardinals trailing by a run, Scott Rolen led off the sixth with a double and was bunted to third by Preston Wilson before Yadier Molina walked on four pitches to put runners at the corners. The decision: Jim Leyland came out to remove Bonderman, surprising and upsetting a workhorse who led the Tigers in innings pitched (214) and worked at least seven innings in 15 of 34 starts. Leyland went to Fernando Rodney. The outcome: Rodney fans Miles with three devastating changeups, forcing Tony La Russa, with two down, to pull Suppan for a pinch-hitter, John Rodriguez, who also went down swinging against Rodney to end the threat. The skinny: "Our starters have done a good job. I thought Bonderman did a good job. ... Probably the only start that wasn't quite up to par was [Justin] Verlander [in Game 1]. So I think our starting pitching has done very well." -- Leyland If at first you don't succeed ...
The situation: Eckstein led off the seventh with a double when Curtis Granderson lost his footing chasing his drive to center. Chris Duncan was due up. The decision: La Russa pinch-hit So Taguchi, with the obvious intent of again attempting his sixth-inning ploy of bunting the tying run to third. The outcome: Taguchi successfully laid down Rodney's first pitch -- but the chance to again second-guess La Russa's bunt strategy never arises. Rodney heaved the ball wildly past first, enabling Eckstein to score and make it 3-3, as Taguchi reached second, from where he would score the go-ahead run on Wilson's two-out single. The skinny: "I'm not sure the ball was wet when Rodney picked it up, who knows. But I think it's the one thing that our club has done really well. We did some really good things, enough things, to come through in tough situations." -- La Russa "It was a little bit of a freak inning. We thought we had a fly ball, one out ... and we just talked about making sure we get one out on the next play. And you could kind of see that the ball is a little wet and Fernando was a little tentative." -- Leyland
Closing time comes early
The situation: Rodriguez opened the top of the eighth with a double off Braden Looper, then carried the tying run to third base on some smart situational swinging by Placido Polanco, who grounded out to second.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.