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October 25, 2011

Rangers crowd gets credit for St. Louis bullpen snafu

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, the Godfather of bullpen maneuvering, had a simple explanation for why he looked so unprepared with his relievers in the deciding eighth inning of Game 5 of the World Series. It was the noise of the sellout crowd of 51,459 at Rangers Ballpark, of course.

In fairness, Rangers manager Ron Washington said that he, too, has had communications with the Rangers' bullpen disrupted by noisy crowds in other venues. But La Russa's explanation seems a bit, oh, odd.

First, the background: Lefty Marc Rzepczynski had entered to face lefty-hitting David Murphy, who singled off Rzepczynski's hand and was safe at first on what could have been an inning-ending double-play grounder had it been fielded cleanly. Mike Napoli -- a .319 hitter in the regular season and one of the Rangers' most clutch hitters -- followed.

Rather than go to the bullpen for a righty, La Russa stuck with Rzepczynski. There was no righty warming to go to because, apparently, the folks handling the phone in the bullpen couldn't hear La Russa correctly. He had wanted Jason Motte to be warming.

Napoli doubled in two runs to break a 2-2 tie in a game the Rangers won 4-2.

"Well, what happened was that twice the bullpen didn't hear Motte's name," La Russa said. "They heard 'Rzepczynski,' and they didn't get Motte. I looked up there, and Motte wasn't going. So, I called back for Motte, and they got [Lance] Lynn up."

After the Napoli double, Rzepczynski struck out Mitch Moreland. La Russa went to the mound, and Lynn entered. Lynn then delivered four intentional balls to Ian Kinsler and was removed. Huh? Lynn was supposed to be unavailable for Game 5 after getting extended in Game 3. He entered, though, to stall enough until Motte was finally ready. Motte struck out Elvis Andrus to end the inning.

"I give the fans credit," La Russa said. "Maybe we need to come up with some ear mikes or something."

-- Jeff Wilson

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