By Tuesday, a travel day as the series returns to Busch Stadium for Wednesday night’s scheduled Game 6, with the Rangers leading the series, three games to two — and as a media firestorm erupted over his postgame news conference the night before — La Russa appeared to have reconsidered his stance, assuming a far greater responsibility for the breakdowns at the end of Game 5.
“To the extent that what I wanted to have happen wasn’t happening [or] didn’t happen — yeah, that’s my fault,” La Russa said “I don’t need to dodge that, ever. . . . You go and make a pitching change, [and] you’ve got the wrong guy coming out there, that’s not fun. Geez, that was embarrassing.”
For the second time in about 18 hours, La Russa took the media through the convoluted series of events in the eighth inning of Game 5, when the Rangers broke open a 2-2 game on a two-run double by catcher Mike Napoli against left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. Some of it made more sense this time; some of it made less.
He reiterated the notion that he had intended to have closer Jason Motte warming up alongside Rzepczynski, in order to be ready to face Napoli, but that half of the request was never heard by bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist — with La Russa suggesting (for the first time) that he spoke Motte’s name too late, after Lilliquist had hung up.
“He felt bad about it,” La Russa said of Lillquist, “but I said, ‘Hey, that’s my fault.’ ”
A second request for Motte, according to La Russa, was heard in the bullpen as “Lynn” – which is how right-hander Lance Lynn, deemed by La Russa and the coaching staff before the game to have been off-limits except in the case of emergency, came to make a surprise appearance with Ian Kinsler at the plate. A shocked La Russa then ordered Lynn, who had been heavily used in the series, to issue an intentional walk, before pulling him for Motte.
“Maybe I slurred it,” La Russa said of the second call for Motte. As for why Lilliquist didn’t question the request for Lynn to get warm in the bullpen, given his off-limits status, La Russa said, “I would be disappointed if Derek [had said], ‘Tony, I mean, do you know what you’re doing?’ ”