Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cards off and Walking Pass with Bases Full in Ninth Lifts Expos

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cards off and Walking Pass with Bases Full in Ninth Lifts Expos

Article excerpt

Tony Fossas is in the big leagues at 39 going on 60 because of his ability to retire lefthanded hitters.

Generally, the lefthanded reliever has held lefthanded batsmen under the .200 mark. Even in an off season for him last year, that figure was .231.

But on Tuesday, as the Cardinals lost their season opener 2-1 to the Montreal Expos, it was Fossas' inability to retire lefthanded-hitting Henry Rodriguez in the ninth inning that undid the Cardinals. Three batters later Fossas issued a bases-loaded walk to pinch-hitter Sherman Obando on a full-count pitch, forcing in the winning run. The Cardinals' Todd Stottlemyre and Montreal's Jim Bullinger pitched stoutly for seven and six innings, respectively, before turning the game over to the bullpens. Cardinals rookie Richard Batchelor breezed through the eighth but allowed an infield hit to Rondell White on an 0-2 forkball to open the Montreal ninth. The free-swinging White probably would have offered if Batchelor had bounced the ball to the plate, which, in retrospect, Batchelor said he might have done. "I felt like I got the pitch where I wanted it," Batchelor said. "But, hard or soft, it's still a hit." Enter Fossas, who threw once to first base to keep White close and then allowed a single through the hole between first and second to Rodriguez, who hit only .218 against lefthanders last season. White went to third on the play, forcing Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to have David Segui walked intentionally to fill the bases. Pinch-hitter Andy Stankiewicz grounded to third baseman Gary Gaetti, who threw high to the plate. Catcher Tom Lampkin had to come up the line for the throw and then tagged White rather than trying to retreat to the plate. The high throw might have cost the Cardinals a play at first, although Lampkin might not have risked the throw anyway. "I could think of so many `what-ifs,' " Lampkin said. "My only job there is to get an out." Although righthander John Frascatore was warming up, Fossas stayed in to face righthanded-hitting Obando because Obando hit only .188 against lefthanders last season. "Bringing in John to a bases-loaded situation would have been pretty tough," La Russa said. "We were better off with Fossas." Expos manager Felipe Alou advised Obando "to wait for the ball up and swing at strikes." Obando said, "I didn't see the ball up, so I didn't swing." Obando never took the bat off his shoulder in a six-pitch at-bat, which climaxed when Fossas missed inside with a fastball, according to home-plate umpire Ed Montague. Fossas thought the pitch was close, but he said Montague "is the umpire, and he's a good one, too. Right now it's a good call. I missed my spot. I was trying to go away, and I might have crossed (Montague) up by throwing the ball inside. It was a tough pitch to call. …

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