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Chess Match: Averting the big inning

Chess Match: Averting the big inning

ST. LOUIS -- Did someone say the designated hitter robs baseball of much strategy, one of the game's subtle appeals? Yep, that point has been often made. Add Game 3 of the World Series to the body of evidence.

With the Tigers and Cardinals back in an NL house, the game was a tactician's delight. Most of the buttons pushed by the managers impacted the bottom thirds of the respective lineups. Daring moves, double moves, pitching moves -- Busch Stadium had it all.

And Detroit manager Jim Leyland, whose body of managerial work has come in the NL prior to this season, handled it like the experienced master that he is.

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Big inning averted
The situation:
The Cardinals draw first blood in the fourth on Jim Edmonds' two-run run double, which still leaves men on second and third with one out and Yadier Molina coming up.

The decision: Leyland has lefty Nate Robertson intentionally walk Molina to load the bases with another right-handed batter, No. 8 hitter So Taguchi, due up. Leyland is aware of Taguchi's high rate of grounding into double plays (nine, in 316 at-bats).

The outcome: The Tigers don't get the double play. But they do get out of the inning without further damage, as both Taguchi and pitcher Chris Carpenter pop out.

The skinny: (grinning) "I don't know if they were scared of me, but I don't think so. With So up, it made sense to walk me and see if he can hit into a double play." -- Molina

The "ZZ" boys are tops
The situation:
Robertson pitches well but leaves in favor of a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth. The man who hurt him, Edmonds, is set to lead off the home half for the Cards.

The decision: Leyland calls for Wilfredo Ledezma, another lefty he hopes can put Edmonds back in the funk he endured during the season (.156) against southpaws.

The outcome: Ledezma fans Edmonds swinging. When Molina follows with a double into the right-center gap, Leyland switches to Joel Zumaya -- who fans Taguchi and gets Carpenter on a soft fly to right.

The skinny: "That's what my role is, to get those guys out. ... I'm a lot better than that." -- Zumaya

This calls for patience
The situation:
Zumaya starts the seventh by issuing a leadoff walk to David Eckstein to bring up Preston Wilson, who has been having a horrible postseason time against hard-throwing righties, in an obvious bunt situation.

The decision: Wilson never indicates any intent to bunt. Neither does he swing at a pitch, as if Tony La Russa, aware that Zumaya has had some wrist soreness and had already walked a guy, has flashed a permanent take sign.

The outcome: Wilson walks, too, and the Cardinals go on to double their lead to 4-0 on yet another Zumaya bad pitch -- this one on a throwing error toward third base that chases home two runs.

The skinny: "No way was I in a take mode. He just happened to yank a few balls down in the zone."
-- Wilson

"The walk to Eckstein really hurt. I've got to get the first guy, because that's exactly why he's up there, leading off, to try to get on any way he can. Then, everything just turned out bad." -- Zumaya

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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