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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tony La Russa: Game 5 Pitching Mishaps Were Result of Bullpen Miscommunications

Those of you who watched Game 5 of the World Series Monday night were likely left scratching your heads like the rest of us.  With the game tied 2-2 in the eighth, Michael Young led off for the Rangers and ripped a double off Octavio Dotel.  The hit prompted Tony La Russa to get on the phone with the bullpen immediately, but what transpired from that point on was bizarre to say the least.

After the phone call, left-hander Marc Rzepczynski began warming up in the bullpen.  According to La Russa, he had asked for right-hander Jason Motte to begin warming at the same time but bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist apparently could not hear the request over the roar of the crowd.  When La Russa realized Motte was not throwing alongside Rzepczynski, he called Lilliquist again to get Motte up.  Once again, Lilliquist allegedly did not hear him correctly and instead thought La Russa asked for right-hander Lance Lynn to begin throwing.

“It’s just like any other park,” Lilliquist explained according to an MLB.com article. “You get a bunch of people and it’s loud and he wanted Motte going easy to back [Rzepczynski] up, and I thought I heard Lynn.”

Dotel struck out Adrian Beltre before intentionally walking Nelson Cruz.  La Russa then brought Rzepczynski into the game to face the left-handed hitting David Murphy, who then reached on a grounder that deflected off the pitcher.  With the bases loaded, La Russa phoned the bullpen hoping to bring Motte into the game.  He then realized Motte was still not warming up.  That forced the Cardinals manager to stick with the lefty Rzepczynski against a righty, Mike Napoli.  Napoli belted a go-ahead, two-run double and the rest was history.  Actually, not quite.

With two runners in scoring position and Texas about to break the game open, La Russa strolled to the mound and signaled for who he thought would be Motte to stop the bleeding.  When he signaled for the righty and Lynn came jogging out of the dugout, La Russa claimed he was surprised after realizing there was apparently a second miscommunication with Lilliquist.  Since Lynn was supposed to be unavailable for Game 5 after a lengthy outing in Game 4, La Russa had him intentionally walk Ian Kinsler and then exit the game.  Finally, Motte entered and finished the inning to preserve the two-run deficit.

After the game, La Russa and Lilliquist talked about how loud the stadium was and how difficult it was to hear on the bullpen phone.  The question we have is whether La Russa is covering up for mismanaging his bullpen, or it is really possible that there were two consecutive miscommunications.  If Lynn was supposedly unavailable for Game 5, wouldn’t Lilliquist be aware of that and double check with the manager?  If you ask me, it all seems a little too fishy to be true.

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