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LaRussa brushes off pen lapse

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  • LaRussa brushes off pen lapse


    La Russa brushes off bullpen's lapse
    By Joe Strauss

    The day after his bullpen suffered a bumpy three-inning ride, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa remained confident a bunch that led the National League in relief earned-run average would pitch to form.

    "They all competed. They all got something out of it," La Russa said during Wednesday afternoon's workout at Busch Stadium. "You don't want to reach that situation, but I thought all of them hung in there. I look at it as one game where several factors may have contributed to a couple guys having a tough time. I would expect some (of those factors) might be different next time out."

    Brad Thompson, Randy Flores, Cal Eldred and Jason Isringhausen allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in three innings as the Padres rallied from an 8-0 deficit to end the game with the go-ahead run at the plate.

    La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan cited a different atmosphere, the Padres' hitters and a large lead as contributing to Tuesday's late rush.

    "For the most part I would say we were in the top of the strike zone too much," Duncan assessed. "You ask yourself why. Well, adrenaline, excitement. Even in Izzy's case, he wasn't getting hit on quality pitches. He was getting hit on balls that should be hit. For what reason? There are probably several. He was excited, too."

    Making the first postseason appearance of their careers, the rookie Thompson and lefthander Flores allowed a run apiece. Pinch-hitter Eric Young reached Flores for a home run. Consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly hurt Thompson. Eldred left the ninth inning looking bothered after allowing two hits and a walk. Setup man Julian Tavarez was unavailable after working the final three regular-season games against the Cincinnati Reds. Ray King also did not appear.

    "I didn't do a good job getting the ball down," Thompson said. "I was leaving everything up. I can't do that."

    "There's no getting around it until you get into the flow of things, especially as a reliever," Duncan said. "It takes at least once to get out there and slow down."

    The game stood at 8-0 when the bullpen took over in the seventh inning. "I don't discount the score," La Russa said. "When Izzy had to make a pitch, he made the pitch. At the end of the game, we were shaking hands."

    La Russa disses replay

    Few things riled La Russa about Tuesday's game more than an apparent missed second-inning call that left San Diego's Mark Sweeney at first base with none out. Umpire Bill Hohn ruled that Sweeney outran first baseman Albert Pujols and pitcher Chris Carpenter to the first-base bag. The ruling touched off a brief spat with the Cardinals skipper. Even so, La Russa has no desire to see instant replay instituted for the postseason.

    "I think you could make an argument. Who's to say if somebody really thought about how you could carefully use it, maybe there's something there," La Russa said. "But, generally, I think no, it's not necessary."

    "One thing we were taught and do really well, I think, we don't play the umpires," La Russa said after his team's workout. "We play the other side, and if they get a call you disagree with, whether they're right or wrong, you turn the page. I thought yesterday was a key miss, but what did Chris do? He went out and pitched and our defense played. If it goes wrong, it's like a bad-hopper or the wind's blowing in."

    Taguchi on center stage

    Outfielder So Taguchi has become an increasingly significant story in his native Japan this season as he has blossomed from spare part for a defending league champion to a productive everyday fixture on a 100-win club racked by injuries to its opening-day lineup.

    Taguchi's daily routine accommodates a significant number of Japanese reporters at his locker. The exchanges are usually extended and always courteous. Taguchi was approached after entering Tuesday's game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, then leaving as part of a double switch three hitters later.

    "They wanted to know what it was like playing in Game 1," Taguchi said. "Last year I didn't play in my first game until Game 4" against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Taguchi will probably see limited time in this series because of the Padres' righthanded pitching staff and the return to health of Reggie Sanders, Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker. He retains value as a defensive player and as a pinch-hitter because of a team-high .407 average with runners in scoring position.

    Taguchi, last October's Game 1 left fielder against the Boston Red Sox, is one of three Japanese position players to start a World Series game. He joins former San Francisco Giants outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo and the New York Yankees' Hideki Matsui. Taguchi, Padres reliever Akinori Otsuka, Matsui and Chicago White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi are the leading Japanese players in the postseason. [/b][/quote]

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