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New York City-based Yankees super fan and espnW contributor Amanda Rykoff will be sharing her thoughts on the World Series. Today, she considers the bullpen malfunction in Monday night's 4-2 Texas victory that gave the Rangers a 3-2 series lead.
I'm honestly not sure where to begin or how to explain all the craziness that took place in Monday night's Game 5. In a World Series that has already given us a little bit of everything, from offensive explosions to controversy to pitchers' duels, Monday night gave us even more. As if the action during the game in Arlington -- which included a World Series-record six intentional walks and an impersonation of Harry Caray by Derek Holland -- wasn't shake-my-head-did-I-just-see-that baffling enough, what we heard after the game proved even more confounding.
During the postgame news conference, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa explained that one of the most bizarre sequences we'd witnessed on a baseball diamond, much less in the World Series, occurred as a result of a miscommunication with the bullpen. Yes, you heard that correctly: a miscommunication due to a problem with the bullpen phone. In 2011. In the World Series.
In the eighth inning, with the game tied at 2 -- thanks largely to the Cardinals' inability to cash in with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-12 and stranding 12 baserunners -- lefty reliever Marc "Scrabble" Rzepczynski came in to replace Octavio Dotel with two men on. One of those men was Nelson Cruz, who had been walked intentionally in another head-scratcher of a move.
Rzepczynski allowed an infield single on a comebacker off the mound to David Murphy to load the bases for Mike Napoli, who eats lefties for breakfast. Why wasn't La Russa calling for a righty -- Jason Motte, maybe? -- to face the mighty Napoli, who in the eight spot had delivered a huge three-run home run in Game 4?
Because, apparently, La Russa did make the call but either nobody answered the bullpen phone or they heard the wrong name. Motte was not warmed up and Rzepczynski inexplicably stayed in the game to face Napoli with the bases loaded. As the Texas crowd chanted "NA-PO-LEE," the slugging catcher crushed Scrabble's 1-1 offering deep to right center field for a two-run double that gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead. The Legend of Naptober continues. He's driven in nine of the Rangers' 19 runs in five games, five of them from the eight spot in the lineup. His four multi-RBI games in the past five have tied Mickey Mantle (not too shabby) for the most in one World Series.
And that's not even the most bizarre pitching-related error of the eighth inning. After Rzepczynski struck out Mitch Moreland (who had homered earlier in the game to put the Rangers on the board), La Russa again went to the bullpen. In came Lance Lynn because Motte still wasn't ready, even after a second call to the bullpen where, according to La Russa, the bullpen confused "Lynn" for "Motte."
ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett reported that La Russa said, "I saw Lynn, I went, 'Oh what are you doing?'" Regarding the previous misunderstanding, "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." I couldn't make this stuff up.
Lynn promptly issued an intentional walk to Ian Kinsler before being lifted for the finally warmed-up Motte. Yes. A change to bring in a pitcher to issue an intentional walk. Now we really have seen it all. It was just the third time in World Series history that a pitcher has faced one batter and issued an intentional walk to that batter.
If this was all due to a "bullpen malfunction," shouldn't there be some way to make sure the right guy is warming up? And what about the guys on the Cardinals' staff in the bullpen? Don't they know Motte is the obvious call, and should they perhaps want to see whether he should be warming? Or was this just an excuse to cover a managerial error? I honestly don't know. Tony La Russa is a master of matchups. While Rzepczynski has been extremely effective this postseason, it's hard to believe that La Russa missed something as obvious as the bad matchup against Napoli.
If the misunderstanding resulted from excessively loud crowd noise, as La Russa indicated in postgame comments -- and that noise had been an issue before -- some backup plan should be in place to account for this. The whole thing is almost as confusing and confounding as Allen Craig being caught stealing with Albert Pujols at the plate twice. The second time was in the top of the ninth with Pujols representing the tying run and resulted in a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play.
I'm not sure what to make of all this, since it's just a little too crazy. I'm not in Texas and I am relying on reports of others on the scene for information. I do know that in a Series that already had it all, we've now seen even more. Heading back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Wednesday night, they'll make sure the bullpen phones are in working order. Maybe they'll institute smoke signals, Morse code or telegrams to make sure the right guy is warming up in the 'pen next time. Whatever it takes. There is no margin for error for the Cardinals.