As La Russa left Shea Stadium on Wednesday evening, he had a question facing him, one that he answered Thursday: Jeff Suppan or Chris Carpenter in Game 2 of the NLCS?
"There's a decision to make," La Russa said before deciding on Carpenter on Thursday. "There's no doubt about it."
The Cards' initial plan was to start Jeff Weaver in Game 1 on Wednesday, Suppan on his regular fifth day in Thursday's Game 2, and Carpenter on five days' rest in Game 3 at Busch Stadium on Saturday. Due to the rain, though, Game 1 is set for Thursday and Game 2 for Friday -- meaning that Carpenter could and will now start a day earlier, while still going on a full four days' rest.
About half an hour before Wednesday's game was called, La Russa spoke at a news conference. At that time, he said he was leaning strongly towards keeping Suppan in Game 2 on Friday and Carpenter in Game 3 on Saturday. Once Major League Baseball announced the rainout, his tune started to change.
"The sooner that Chris pitches when he's ready, the better off you are," La Russa said. "And he happens to be ready Friday."
Rookie Anthony Reyes will start in Game 4 on Sunday, and Weaver will go on three days' rest in Game 5 at Busch Stadium on Monday. Whoever starts in Game 2 would go in a potential sixth game in New York, and the Game 3 starter would take the mound in Game 7 -- if there is one.
The more immediate matter, though, was the decision between Games 2 and 3. There's the simple issue that the sooner Carpenter pitches, the better off the Cardinals are. Also figuring in is that both Carpenter and Suppan have fared significantly better at home than on the road.
Initially, La Russa was swayed by the magnitude of Game 3, both because it can be a significant swing game in a series, and because of the fanfare of the home opener. He seemed to talk himself out of that notion as he chatted with reporters in his office.
"Game 3, having Carp for that one, I think that's an important point," he said. "But [Friday] is his fifth day. And I think you've got to seriously think about what that means."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.