Rainouts and Pumpkins
If you want to know why Game 5 of the National League Championship Series was rained out Monday, then there is a Canon Powershot video I took while driving to the ballpark. The announcement of the second rainout (are you kidding?) in this series was made within the hour once I arrived. Also in this video, you can hear the local St. Louis all-sports talk radio station dealing with the other hot topic in sports: That Miami-Florida International football brawl and the unbelievable radio call by a former Hurricane player who wanted to jump on the elevator and go join the fight on the field. (He was subsequently released from duty, thankfully.) At least we have a peaceful NLCS.
Just a rainy one.
Stan the Man was dripping wet all day here beside umbrellas in St. Louis, so we’re just talking some baseball here.
The second-best news was that the rainout decision was made in the afternoon instead of waiting until gametime. Why second-best? Because the best news is that two starting pitchers will be operating on their normal rest, so Tom Glavine of the Mets and Jeff Weaver of the Cards should be at full strength — which is what you want to see in a game that is being described in clubhouses as "pivotal."
"Both guys can work on full rest," Scott Rolen said, "and that’s the way it was supposed to be if not for the first rainout in New York."
As for the rest of the players, Rolen said, "We play 20 or 21 straight during the season — it doesn’t make a difference to the rest of us."
Cards manager Tony La Russa was asked in his office after the game was called: "What type of pitcher is most affected by throwing with [three days'] rest?"
"It depends on a guy’s arm," La Russa said. "If he relies on extra life, the life is not there. He has to compensate by changing speeds. If he’s got good movement, sometimes he has more movement. It comes down to the type of pitcher you have."
Among the other things La Russa talked about:
(a) He is talking to his friend Jim Leyland twice a day while the Tigers are waiting. La Russa said his experience with Oakland during its World Series appearances showed him that the NL champ will be at a disadvantage if the NLCS goes seven games, because after celebrating, there’s a quick turnaround to Game 1 of the Fall Classic. "The preparation is a significant advantage for the team that gets in early."
(b) He was visibly shocked by the news that Ken Macha is out as Oakland’s manager. "They had a [heck of a] year. The second baseman and shortstop didn’t play in the last series, and they were missing [Rich] Harden much of the year. I’ll be interested to see what [A's GM] Billy [Beane] says." Noting the fact that San Diego skipper Bruce Bochy reportedly has been allowed to look at other openings, as well as the firing of Florida’s Joe Girardi after a possible NL Manager of the Year season, La Russa quipped to a laughing audience: "I don’t know whether I should try to win or lose here." La Russa also said only marginally tongue-in-cheek that "evidently the standard has been set, and Jim [Leyland] is screwing everybody up." And as for Lou Piniella taking over the Cubs, La Russa said, "The Cubs are replacing a great manager with a great manager." La Russa said he voted for Girardi with his ballot by Sporting News for Manager of the Year, "but I think Lou is a great manager."
(c) He is definitely worried about Albert Pujols’ right hamstring. During the mass-interview session, La Russa said: "You probably noticed, he’s laboring when he runs. His right hamstring is a real problem. … He can hit some home runs and catches it right, but he’s not going to be generating as much power, but he can still generate base hits. [He] just [has] to be careful running." Pujols comes into the clubhouse after each game with a monster-sized icepack bandaged to the hammy. In his office, La Russa elaborated: "You worry about the ninth inning, a ball hit into the hole — what’s he going to do, check up? He’s going to run. He’s got a problem there that’s significant enough for me to mention. … Those things improve by resting."
That is video I took of the Cardinals’ biggest thorn in their recent postseason history. Carlos Beltran was leaving BP before Game 4 to head for the clubhouse, and he proceeded that night to scorch the Redbirds again. The Mets now have home-field advantage again in what has become a best-of-three, and I don’t think St. Louis can survive a constant assault by him the way they did when he was with Houston in the 2004 NLCS. There is too much ammo all around him. People in St. Louis are counting on Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan somehow shutting him down in those last two games — assuming there’s a Game 7.
Mets manager Willie Randolph talked about how Pujols has not been allowed to erupt the way fellow stars Beltran and Carlos Delgado have: "He’s gotten a few hits but he’s hit some balls hard at some people, too. So I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to go after him. Just hope that you keep the ball in the ballpark against him and we’ve done that so far."
OK, we’ll try to do it all again here Tuesday. One thing that wasn’t rained out here was a chance this morning to carve a couple of pumpkins with my dudes.
Here’s Ben’s pumpkin, with Yadier Molina-like eyebrows.
And here’s Josh’s — note the "L" on the forehead — so apparently this one is for whichever team does not advance.