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Cards lose their cool in Game 4

DuPuy: Umpire justified in ejections

ST. LOUIS -- The ejections of Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and center fielder Jim Edmonds on Sunday punctuated what was a close 2-1 Houston win in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

And Bob DuPuy, baseball's No. 2 official, said after the Astros took a commanding 3-1 lead in the series that plate umpire Phil Cuzzi's actions were justified because both La Russa and Edmonds disputed ball-strike calls, a dispute that leads to immediate ejection under baseball rules. DuPuy is in town for Games 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series at Minute Maid Park.

"It doesn't matter if it's a playoff game or a regular-season game," DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, told MLB.com. "The umpires have to keep control of the game. Tony was warned twice [to stop arguing], and when he didn't do it, he was thrown out. It's a shame, but those are the circumstances."

La Russa was run after reliever Jason Marquis walked Lance Berkman on four straight pitches to load the bases in the bottom of seventh. Morgan Ensberg followed the fracas with a sacrifice fly to center that drove in the winning run in an inning when the Astros didn't muster a base hit.

Edmonds was tossed in the top of the eighth with a runner on first base and two outs. The left-handed hitter thought the 3-1 pitch was up and in and began heading toward first base when Cuzzi signaled the strike call.

"All I asked was where the pitch was," a calm Edmonds said. "I said, 'How do you call that ball a strike?' And he said, 'Don't you come back here and argue with me.' I said, 'You have to do a better job than that.' And he said, 'OK, you're warned,' and he threw me out."

John Rodriguez pinch-hit with a full count and drilled a shot to deep center field that Willy Taveras grabbed to end the inning as he sped up Tal's Hill that leads toward the fence at the 438-foot mark.

Cuzzi was not required by MLB to appear in the interview room, nor was a pool reporter sent into the umpires' quarters to get an explanation from the embattled ump.

"There's no rules interpretation here," DuPuy said. "You can't argue ball-and-strike calls. Plain and simple. It needs no explanation."

La Russa declined to comment about the umpiring or his ejection. He began arguing the ball four call on Berkman from the Cardinals dugout on the third-base side of the ballpark and was gone before his foot even touched the field. Tim McClelland, the third-base umpire on Sunday and the crew chief for the series, ultimately blocked La Russa's path toward Cuzzi, who kept his distance and looked in the other direction as the veteran manager circled home plate and continued a steady verbal patter.

"All day in the bullpen, a couple of guys were talking about how consistent he'd been behind the plate," Marquis said. "Then I came in and everything changed."

La Russa said he wouldn't talk about his own ejection.

"I'm ready to discuss anything about the game," he said. "Anything involving the umpires, there's nothing you should say afterwards -- not the next day, next week or next year. So I have nothing to say about that."

Asked about Edmonds' ejection, La Russa added: "I believe Major League Baseball is here in force. I know what they tell us about certain latitudes you get in postseason play because you're supposed to be emotional and try and win this thing.

"See what the explanation is for allowing Jim to get thrown out for the little that he did and the little that he said. I don't think he cursed anybody from what I understand. But that's for the higher-ups to take care of."

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty also declined to discuss the umpires or what had transpired with La Russa and Edmonds in the game.

"I don't want to say anything about it until the series is over, because I don't want to have anything else happen," he said. "But I can tell you this: we're not very happy about the umpiring."

Marquis, who came on in relief of starter Jeff Suppan in the sixth and worked the last three innings, took the high road and said he couldn't blame the loss on Cuzzi's calls.

"I thought I made some quality pitches, but they weren't considered strikes," he said. "I didn't get the job done. You can't blame it on an umpire."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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