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Reliever's status uncertain for rest of NLCS

HOUSTON -- St. Louis right-hander Julian Tavarez broke his left
hand during a dugout tantrum in Game 4 of the NL Championship
Series, and it was uncertain Monday when the reliever would pitch again.

The excitable Tavarez tried to trash the bench shortly after
giving up a tiebreaking home run to Carlos Beltran in the seventh
inning of Houston's 6-5 win Sunday.

Before Game 5, the Cardinals told ESPN that Tavarez broke three bones in his left hand.

"He punched the phone, so that's when it happened," manager
Tony La Russa said. "I don't know if he'll pitch tonight, but
he'll pitch in the series."

Tavarez became the second prominent pitcher to recently hurt
himself in a fit of anger. Yankees righty Kevin Brown broke his
left hand when he punched a clubhouse wall in early September, and
did not pitch much before the playoffs.

The Cardinals and Astros were tied at 2 going into Monday
night's game, and La Russa hoped to have Tavarez back soon.

"When I left the clubhouse, they were fashioning some kind of
splint," he said. "I think he can pitch."

Tavarez's hand was placed in a soft, plastic splint with his
last two fingers immobilized. He tested it inside his glove during
batting practice, catching some tosses in the outfield.

Tavarez was 7-4 with four saves and a 2.38 ERA in 77 games
during the regular season. He is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in five games
during this postseason.

La Russa asked the Cardinals' medical staff how it was possible
Tavarez might recover so soon when Brown missed a lot of time.

"I got the explanation: He had a pin inserted and had some kind
of cast or big splint that would have made it impossible for him to
function," La Russa said.

Earlier Monday, the Astros apologized to the Cardinals, saying
they erred by showing a replay of Tavarez's antics on the stadium
scoreboard.

"We made a mistake in judgment by playing that," Astros
spokesman Jay Lucas said. "We meant no disrespect to the
Cardinals' organization.

"We apologize for it," he said. "We want to show both teams
in a positive light. It won't happen again."

Lucas said the entertainment operators at Minute Maid Park who
showed the replay did not lose their jobs and were not disciplined.

Before Game 5, La Russa said he had not gotten an apology
directly from the Astros.

"No, they haven't. They don't have to. They haven't said
anything," he said. "So they had a hiccup, they're still classy.
You don't forget how they've been for years. It's not a big deal."

A day earlier, La Russa was bothered.

"I think ever since I've been around, since 1996, the Astros
are as classy an organization as anything I've met in the National
League," he said Sunday. "But even Sinatra clears his throat, and
I think that was below their standards and that was
disappointing."

Tavarez, who has been suspended several times in the past,
angered the Astros right after Beltran homered when he threw a
pitch over Jeff Bagwell's head. They shouted at each other, and
Tavarez threw up his arms.

First baseman Albert Pujols and other Cardinals came to the
mound at that point, trying to settle down Tavarez. Plate umpire
Mike Winters issued warnings to both teams, and there was no more
trouble.

When the inning ended, Tavarez bent over as he approached the
bench and appeared to scream at himself. He slammed his glove on
the dugout roof, tried to yank the bullpen phone off its mounting
and threw down a water cooler.

"I just lost my cool," Tavarez said, completely calm after the
game. "I was not throwing at him. It was not intentional."

Said Bagwell: "These are heated games. That was my initial
reaction."

Tavarez was suspended for 10 games for applying a foreign
substance to a ball in late August, and the penalty was later cut
to eight games.

In 2003, he drew a three-game suspension for fighting during a
brawl while with Pittsburgh. In spring training with the Cubs in
2001, he was suspended for three games after a flying kick at San
Francisco's Russ Davis.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.