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ST. LOUIS— Nobody plays a hunch like Tony La Russa. Not this October, anyway.
The St. Louis manager once again looked like a genius, especially when Allen Craig pinch-hit for ace Chris Carpenter and delivered a go-ahead single that sent the Cardinals past the Texas Rangers 3-2 on Wednesday night in the World Series opener.
Craig's slicing hit in the sixth inning fell inches front of sliding right fielder Nelson Cruz. Game 1 was just that tight throughout a cold, damp evening.
It was a game perfectly suited for the National League style — lots of bunts, intentional walks and pitching changes. And in a postseason in which he's made all the right moves, the 67-year-old La Russa was at the top of his game.
After pulling Carpenter, La Russa coaxed three scoreless innings from his deep bullpen. Five relievers did the job, with Jason Motte closing for his fifth save of the postseason.
A day earlier, Texas manager Ron Washington joked, "I don't think I can ever live up to matching wits with Tony La Russa." Who can, these days?
The Cardinals even won without their Rally Squirrel. There were no sightings of the elusive critter still roaming Busch Stadium — good thing for the rodent, too, because La Russa probably would've devised a way to catch him.
Game 2 is Thursday night, with Jaime Garcia starting for the Cards against Colby Lewis. Texas has not lost two straight games since August.