Blunder ball: Cardinals look to bounce back in game 6

Is Tony La Russa telling the truth about Monday night’s bizarre eighth inning, which cost the Cardinals a Game 5 win.

Tony La Russa’s failure to communicate with his bullpen coach might have cost St. Louis a World Series championship.

That is, if you actually believe La Russa’s controversial call to the bullpen. Either way, the Cardinals manager is sticking to his story.

The story goes that La Russa called for Jason Motte and instead got Lance Lynne. That miscommunication left Marc Rzepczynski on the mound against Mike Napoli, who delivered a two-run, eventual game-winning double for the Rangers in a wild, Game 5 Monday night.

La Russa blamed the crowd noise.

“Yeah, well, sometimes real loud, especially when some of the bullpens that are right amidst the fans and excitement,” La Russa said. “It happens in Philadelphia. It’s hard to hear it there. So it’s not unusual.”

Not unusual? Even in a pivotal swing game, like Game 5 of the World Series? Sure sounds fishy — and the national media wasn’t buying it.

“Truth be told, La Russa’s story included too many inconsistencies and raised too many questions to help clarify what happened in that bizarre eighth inning,” wrote SI’s Tom Verducci. “Somewhere this inning got away from La Russa.”

But it’s all water under the bridge now. La Russa’s Cardinals return home down three games to two in the World Series. A loss and they have an entire offseason to ponder what might have been.

The players insist they haven’t lost trust in their future Hall of Fame skipper, and they intend to keep doing the same things that got them to baseball’s biggest stage.

“When you’re on the mound you can’t worry about little things like mechanics and other things, other distractions,” said Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who takes the mound in Game 6 tonight. “All you’ve got to do is just try to go out there and battle, just try to give your team a chance.”

Tough breaks

We tracked down some other tactical moves — blame the manager or player — that helped cost teams World Series titles.
   
“It gets through Buckner”

That was the Mets’ rallying cry when a slow grounder shot through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Sox dropped that game in extras and then lost Game 7. Some blame manager John McNamara for leaving the defensively-challenged Buckner in with a lead.
   
“The Mad Dash”

Another Red Sox lowlight, as Johnny Pesky took his time on a cutoff play and allowed Enos Slaughter to go from first to home on Harry Walker’s hit. The run proved to be the winning one in a 4-3 Cardinals’ victory in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series.
   
“My Daddy, Part II”
Charlie Manuel’s decision to start Pedro Martinez in a do-or-die Game 6 in 2009 was already being debated. Then, the Phillies skipper left Martinez in with the bases loaded to face Hideki Matsui, who had already homered off him. Matsui provided a two-run single that broke the game open.


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