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Updated: Wednesday October 27, 2004 11:51AM
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4 1
It wasn't a good night for Jeff Suppan on the mound or the basepaths.
AP

By Daniel G. Habib, SI.com

Turning Point
In an atypical turn for a team this fundamentally sound, the Cardinals frittered away their best run-scoring opportunity of Game 3 because of a baserunning mistake by righthander Jeff Suppan.

The brainlock came in the bottom of the third, with Suppan on third and shortstop Edgar Renteria on second, nobody out and Boston ahead 1-0. Cardinals leftfielder Larry Walker pulled a groundball to second, where the Red Sox's Mark Bellhorn was playing back, conceding a run. Bellhorn threw Walker out at first, and Renteria had made it to third, but Suppan inexplicably failed to break on contact. He took a few steps off the bag and froze, then tried to dive back, but got in late and with a shoddy half-slide, tagged out by Bill Mueller after a strong cross-diamond throw from accidental first baseman David Ortiz.

Suppan seemed flabbergasted by his mistake, saying only, "I don't know how to describe it. I screwed up." Walker, who had done his job hitting to the pull side, agreed. "All I wanted to do was hit a ground ball to second base," Walker said. "That was the only thing on my mind. I didn't even want to think about hitting a fly ball that might be too short. Get 'em over, get 'em in, and we've got a runner on third with one out. But he's human. You make errors."

Third-base coach Jose Oquendo deserves some blame, too. After he sent Suppan home and Suppan froze, Oquendo threw up his arms in frustration and spun around, so that he wasn't in position to see Ortiz and bring Suppan back to the bag. The Cardinals never threatened again.

From the Bench
A minor quibble, but why did Red Sox manager Terry Francona need to use his closer, Keith Foulke, to pitch the ninth with a four-run lead? True, Foulke has been a postseason iron man, throwing three straight days against the Yankees, in Games 4, 5 and 6 of the ALCS, outings of 50, 22 and 28 pitches; he went multiple innings of both Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. So stamina isn't a concern and Foulke would, one assumes, be available to throw two innings in Game 4, but why force the issue in a game that's not in jeopardy? Francona backed himself into this choice by using Mike Timlin to start the eighth -- after smartly hooking Martinez, who had thrown 98 pitches, and who notably unravels after 100. With left-handed Tony Womack up (.285, .317 slugging against lefties; .314 and .405 against righties), why not use Alan Embree there, especially since Embree struck out the side in the seventh inning of Game 1, in precisely this situation: facing the bottom of the order, Womack leading off? Roger Cedeno, who was sure to pinch-hit in the eighth, also shows a negative platoon split versus lefties (.194 against them, compared to .280 against righties.) A scenario in which Embree worked the eighth and Timlin the ninth would have given Foulke a breather. A truly small bone to pick, but there wasn't a lot of managing to do in Game 3. Also, I'll reiterate my belief that Walker should lead off for St. Louis. With Womack, Matheny and the pitcher batting 7-8-9, that's three pretty automatic outs in a row for St. Louis, basically an inning off for the Boston starter.

Clubhouse Confidential
Dodgers executive Tommy Lasorda drew guffaws in a crowded press elevator after the game, when he quipped, "The bats were asleep! I wish they'd played like that against us, God almighty!" ... Boston leftfielder Manny Ramirez played a solid defensive game after a clown act in Game 1, throwing out Walker with a strong, one-hop throw to end the first inning. Ramirez takes plays off in the outfield, and often embarasses himself with mental mistakes, but he's also capable of elite achievements, as when he plucked a Miguel Cairo home run back from the first row of outfield seats at Yankee Stadium late in the regular season. He's still below average but no longer a fulltime liability. "I was really happy to see Manny not even thinking about what happened at Fenway, and being able to come up with a big throw and a very good throw to put somebody out in a key situation," Martinez said. ... Martinez responded to the grandest stage of his career, twirling seven shutout innings and allowing just three hits. His slider, especially to righties, was as good as it's been this year.

Bottom Line
Some sobering precedents for the Cardinals to ponder: 20 previous World Series have begun 3-0; 17 of them ended in four games, the other three in five. Obviously, though, we all watched the ALCS, and there would be no more tragicomic, aesthetically satisfying resolution to Boston's season than to lose four straight, with the series-winning run scoring on, say, a fly ball caught in Johnny Damon's mane. St. Louis's ordinary starting pitching has finally caught up with it, logically against a team of patient, work-the-count hitters with power in all nine spots. The Cardinals' three starters, Woody Williams, Matt Morris and Suppan, have worked 11 1/3 innings this series, allowing 15 runs and 20 hits. They lack the power fastballs or power breaking balls to miss the Red Sox bats. Things fall apart in Game 4, when Jason Marquis, who's been hit harder than anybody this October, draws the start.

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