N.L. Division Series: Cardinals Beat Phillies 5-4, Even Series

Improbably enough, the Cardinals beat Cliff Lee after falling behind 4-0, and nobody deserves more credit than manager Tony La Russa.

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies, however improbably, in Game 2 of their National League Division Series, 5-4.

If the Phillies had beaten the Cardinals, a) the Series would - if history's any guide - essentially be over, and b) we could spend a goodly chunk of this piece second-guessing a key decision made by Tony La Russa before the game.

But the Cardinals beat the Phillies, so we'll save the second-guessing for another time.

After going with their No. 4 (or 5) starter against the Phillies' ace in Game 1, and losing, in Game 2 the Cardinals went with co-ace Chris Carpenter against Phillies co-ace Cliff Lee. This was somewhat unorthodox, as Carpenter pitched just four days earlier and had never, not even once in his long career, started on short rest.

But start on short rest he did, and if you're a glass-half-empty sort of person, you might focus on the fact that Carpenter exited the proceedings after only three innings, with his team losing 4-0. If you're a glass-half-full sort of person, you might focus on the fact that Carpenter should be exceptionally well rested for Game 5 next Friday night, if there's a Game 5.

Oh, and that a Game 5 is somewhat likely, because the Cardinals actually came back and beat Lee and the Phillies. As bad as Carpenter was in his three innings, his friends in the bullpen were simply brilliant. Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepcynski, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte combined for six scoreless innings, with only two Phillies reaching base.

The biggest moment in that entire stretch came in the bottom of the eighth. With one out and a runner on first base, La Russa summoned 54-year-old lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Ryan Howard.* **

* Fun Fact: Arthur Rhodes was teammates with Mike Flanagan for two seasons.

** Semi-Fun Fact: Arthur Rhodes used to pitch for the Phillies, but that's just semi-fun because Arthur Rhodes used to pitch for every team.

Rhodes struck out Howard on three pitches.

That was it for Rhodes. For the switch-hitting - but historically more powerful against lefties than righties - Shane Victorino, La Russa brought in the flame-throwing Motte, who got Victorino on a can of corn to center field.

After the Phillies held the Cardinals in the ninth, Motte returned to the mound. Motte didn't record his first save this season until late August, but after being anointed the closer in early September, he converted seven of eight save chances, and in his last three he protected one-run leads.

Make that eight of nine, and his last four. Motte throws 200 miles an hour, and he throws strikes. He struck out Raul Ibanez, got Polanco on a fly to right, and retired Carlos Ruiz on a grounder to second to even the Division Series at one game apiece.

But the Game 2 game ball goes to Tony La Russa. His pregame decision to start Carpenter blew up in his face. But once the game got started, La Russa pulled all the right strings, artfully deploying six relief pitchers and orchestrating a couple of lineup double-switches.

Someday if your grandson asks you, "Pappy, why is this manager named La Russa in the Hall of Fame?" you might just show him the last six innings of a game from early October, 2011.

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