LOS ANGELES -- As St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has canvassed coaches and managers in the Cardinals' system and friends who are with other clubs, he has tried to gather advice and opinions on one of the trickier calls he and Don Mattingly have both made in this series.
"Talk to me about improving your defense late in the game," Matheny says.
Late in Game 4, Matheny replaced third baseman David Freese and then switched left fielder Matt Holliday out of the game with nine outs to maintain a two-run lead. The risk to improve the defense was being without two righthanded bats, including No. 3 hitter Holliday, if the Dodgers rallied to tie. The pitcher in the third spot would also neutralize No. 2 hitter Carlos Beltran, who would be intentionally walked to face the pitcher or pinch-hitter.
"We've had that burn us this year, too, where we go into extra innings and they kept walking everybody to get to the pitcher's spot," Matheny said. "It's a gamble. We take a calculated risk."
Matheny has in the past described how late in a game he intends to manage for outs, not for runs. He did acknowledge that he removed Holliday an inning earlier than usual in Game 4, and that had Shane Robinson not homered for a two-run lead Holliday probably would have stayed in. The lack of overall pop from the bench adds another wrinkle.
In Game 1 of the National League championship series, Mattingly went for the runs, replacing cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez with a pinch-runner. That meant as the game dipped into extra innings the Cardinals intentionally walked No. 3 hitter Hanley Ramirez, and LA effectively lost two hitters, the one on the bench and the one unprotected.
Matheny said he's received the spectrum of opinions when he's sought them.
"There are times when I want the middle of my order," Matheny said. "Especially when you're talking about replacing the 3-4 hitters in your lineup. That's a big move. You're taking that risk of the offensive spot coming back around and you not having your key guys."
The one-year deal Stephen Drew signed with Boston this past offseason to reboot his market has been helped by the shortstop's second-half play and chance to showcase in the postseason, his agent said before the start of Wednesday's Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. Scott Boras, who represents Drew, mentioned his client's .276 average in the second half, and J.D.'s younger brother had 25 extra-base hits in the final 58 games for the Red Sox.
The Cardinals will be shopping for a shortstop this offseason, and they've been interested in the 30-year-old Drew before. They discussed him with Boras this past winter, but the Red Sox had the better, $9.5 million offer.
"You get to the postseason and see Stephen in an environment where he's exposed on the East Coast ... now everyone really knows who Stephen Drew is," said Boras, who has season tickets to Dodgers games and attended this week's playoffs. "The more and more they watch his defense, they'll see that he's one of the elite defensive shortstops. And he's got power. I think he's someone there's probably six teams that I can think of who would be dramatically better, particularly in the postseason, if they have Stephen Drew on their roster."
Boras then described the best fit for Drew, who will be looking to spin the one-year "pillow" deal into the longterm deal injuries kept him from in his previous crack at free agency.
The club sounds familiar.
"I think in the end Stephen is going to be very attractive to clubs that already are very, very good and want to win," Boras said. "They are going to have a club that is going to be a really good team for four to six years and they already have a pitching staff. They know offensively, they're going to get that production from shortstop."
SKIP: MOLINA IS MVP
Ballots from the 30 voters have already been cast for the National League's Most Valuable Player award -- they were due before the first pitch of the postseason -- and the winner will be announced in November. But Dodgers infielder Skip Schumaker suggested who he believes should win during a pregame news conference Wednesday.
"In my opinion, not only is Yadi the MVP of that team, but the league," Schumaker said. "What he means to them defensively, commanding the game, shutting down the running game almost completely. If you watch him really closely during the game, he's moving in outfielders, telling infielders to take a step right or left. He's one of the smarter baseball people I've been around and maybe the smartest.
"He makes the team that much better and makes those young pitchers so good because they know they can trust him and not have to shake him off at any point," Schumaker concluded.?
Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig (foot injury) will face pitchers today at Busch Stadium during a scheduled workout. Craig tested his foot running in the outfield as he attempts to return to the lineup if the Cardinals advance to the World Series. ... Third baseman David Freese (calf tightness) played nine innings and had a second consecutive day of improved health.... Kozma returned to the lineup at shortstop for Game 5 because of starter Joe Kelly's propensity for ground balls. ... Since 2000, the Cardinals are 14-9 in games when they've had a chance to clinch a series.
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