Mets Insider: La Russa's moves prove classic

Look into the Cardinals dugout during any of the NLCS games, and even though they've all started after 8pm, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa will have you humming the old Corey Hart hit song from the 1980s. Because, while the skies may have darkened, there's the ever-inscrutable skipper, wearing his "Sunglasses at Night."

The logical explanation may have to do with a sensitivity towards the banks of high-powered lights used during night ballgames.

But you could also float the theory that La Russa is shielding his eyes from potential spies in the other dugout who may trying to watch his eyes to pick something up.

La Russa is known, after all, as one of baseball's deepest thinkers, a strategist who enjoys devising chess-like moves innings ahead of his opponents. And while he's often viewed (and not necessarily in a complimentary fashion, either) as one of the authors of the book called "Managing by the Book," Tony the Brain will at times do some very unexpected things -- seemingly just to mess with his counterpart's heads.

And it's likely that one of those left scratching his head over La Russa's tactical maneuvers after the Cardinal's 4-2 win over the Mets Game Five of the NLCS was New York manager Willie Randolph. You couldn't blame him, either.

The Cards were holding a slim 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when, with one out and no one on, La Russa decided to hit for his starter Jeff Weaver.

With lefty Pedro Feliciano pitching, the St. Louis skipper chose not to use any righthanded batter off his bench, but instead sent up lefthanded hitter Chris Duncan -- a rookie with a the .170 average (8-47, 14 Ks) against lefties.

Naturally, Duncan hit a home run off Feliciano, extending the St. Louis lead to 4-2.

Later, in the top of the eighth, the Mets had put the tieing runs aboard against reliever Josh Kinney with one out by way of a Carlos Delgado single and David Wright double.

At that point La Russa went to the mound -- did we mention that he takes off his sunglasses only when he makes pitching changes? -- and replaced righty Kinney with lefty Randy Flores.

This move was entirely logical, since due up for the Mets was the left-handed Shawn Green, followed by switch-hitting Jose Valentin. Valentin would be followed by another left-handed hitter, Endy Chavez.

Flores retired Green on a short fly ball that froze both runners, but then La Russa once again changed pitchers. Going against the book, he brought in righty Adam Wainwright to face Valentin -- even though during the season the Mets second baseman hit .288 vs. righties as opposed to .219 vs lefties, and with far more power from the left side to boot.

So what happened? The rookie Wainwright struck out the veteran Valentin looking to end the innning.

Wainwright then pitched a one-two-three ninth to preserve the win, and the Cardinals emerged with a three games to two lead going back to New York.

Now the Mets were going to have to try and beat Cards ace Chris Carpenter -- and even if they won, Game Three St. Louis hero Jeff Suppan after that -- in order to keep their World Series hopes alive.

Shady guy, that Tony La Russa.

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