The guy just won’t let things be — he has to shift things around, make substitutions, use his entire bullpen and out-fox his opponent.
On Thursday night with the St. Louis Cardinals three outs away from grabbing a commanding 2-0 World Series lead, La Russa may have out-foxed himself.
After (not) closer Jason Motte allowed consecutive singles — and Albert Pujols botched a key cutoff — to put runners on second and third with no outs, La Russa opted to yank his best postseason reliever for ancient lefty Arthur Rhodes.
Josh Hamilton’s sacrifice fly scored Ian Kinsler to tie the game. Then La Russa brought in righty Lance Lynn, who promptly surrendered the go-ahead run on a Michael Young sacrifice fly, and the Rangers escaped Busch Stadium with an improbable 2-1 win and a deadlocked series.
Coming into the game, the hard-throwing Motte had allowed one hit in nine innings this postseason. But rather than intentionally walk Hamilton (and his suspected strained groin) to load the bases and set up the double-play, La Russa went with Rhodes.
“I figured he’d stay with [Motte] to be honest — a guy that throws close to 100 [mph], rather than [Rhodes], who throws 89,” Hamilton said. “I don’t get paid to make those decisions, and I’m glad [La Russa] made that one.”
Baseball writers have spent the last two months heaping praise on La Russa — and deservedly so. His well-timed moves helped the Cardinals make up an enormous wild-card gap to overtake the Braves in September and his in-game decisions — see Allen Craig’s two huge pinch hits — have mostly come up roses in the playoffs.
And while there’s little doubt La Russa has more managerial tact than Texas skipper Ron Washington, that quick trigger finger may have cost the Cardinals on Thursday night. Now St. Louis heads to Texas with a (not) closer once again questioning his effectiveness with the game on the line.
We’ve got ourselves a series.
More World Series coverage from The Washington Post:
Thomas Boswell: Missed cutoff is lost opportunity for Cardinals
Box score: Rangers 2, Cardinals 1
Photo Gallery: Scenes from Rangers vs. Cardinals Game 2