GAME 2 at Detroit
TIGERS 3, CARDINALS 1
Cardinals DH Scott Spiezio was in the visitors' video room at Comerica Park in Detroit right after his first-inning Game 2 strikeout to study how Detroit starter Kenny Rogers got him out. At the same time nonroster infielder Jose Vizcaino was keeping warm in the St. Louis clubhouse watching the game on television. Suddenly each of them was jolted by the image on the screens in front of them of a yellow-brown substance on Rogers's pitching hand. There was only one thing for them to conclude, and that conclusion quickly reached the Cardinals' dugout and La Russa: Rogers, St. Louis figured, was cheating by using pine tar to improve his grip on the ball.
When word reached La Russa of what everybody watching on national TV knew, the manager had to make a quick decision: Should he ask home plate umpire Alphonso Marquez to examine Rogers's hand? If Marquez found Rogers to have used pine tar, by Rule 8.02 Rogers would have been ejected from the game and suspended for 10 days, putting Detroit's hottest pitcher out of the series. La Russa took a less aggressive approach. He decided not to ask Marquez to examine Rogers's hand.
Questioned the following day about his decision, La Russa said, "I decided that I was not going to be part of the b.s. where I was going to ask the umpire to go to the mound and undress the pitcher," La Russa said. "Now, what was I going to do? I alerted [Marquez]. I said, 'I hope it gets fixed; if it doesn't get fixed then I'll take the next step.'"
The postgame explanations were embarrassingly contradictory everywhere you turned. Rogers said umpires did not talk to him about the smudge, which he insisted was "a big clump of dirt" that somehow stuck to his hand while he was rubbing a baseball during his pregame warmup in the bullpen; umpire supervisor Steve Palermo said Marquez had. Palermo said Marquez, without even inspecting Rogers's hand, told him to remove the dirt; but Palermo also said dirt is not a foreign substance and thus is legal. And the next day La Russa said tersely, "I don't believe it was dirt. It didn't look like dirt."
Rogers went on to pitch a clean--and brilliant--game, not allowing another hit until the eighth, a harmless single. Closer Todd Jones provided drama in the ninth, allowing four straight batters to reach base after two outs, but he retired Molina on a ground ball with the bases loaded to preserve the win. "That," Leyland said of the ninth, "was no good." Still, history will remember the first inning as the really messy one.
GAME 3 at St. Louis
CARDINALS 5, TIGERS 0
Chris Carpenter keeps the mien of a Buckingham Palace guard and the focus of a diamond cutter. Ever clinical on the mound and off, he remained in character even after pitching eight of the most beautifully efficient shutout innings you could hope to see in the World Series.
"You realize the situation that you're in because there are seven times as many media people," Carpenter said after his first Series start, having been denied an appearance against Boston in 2004 because of injury. "But you have to realize your job is the same as it is on April 14. Your job is to go out and execute pitches."
Which is exactly what he did. The aggressive Tigers were putty in Carpenter's hands, getting only three singles and no walks. They got one runner as far as second base, never extended an at bat to more than five pitches, went out on four pitches in the second inning despite having sent their 4-5-6 hitters to the plate and never saw a three-ball count. The commercial breaks seemed longer than Carpenter's innings.
"Typical Carp," Eckstein said. "You can go up there trying to be patient, but then you find yourself 0 and 2 right away. So then you tell yourself, 'O.K., be aggressive,' and you're going to get yourself out."
For Carpenter, who lost nearly two seasons to injury between 2002 and '04, it was a night of sweet redemption.