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Lima's bunt questioned
10/09/2004 11:44 PM ET
LOS ANGELES -- In the final analysis, what happened when Jose Lima bunted in the third inning Saturday night was not the most controversial play in postseason history. What Lima did on the mound was the main reason the National League Division Series will be going to a fourth game Sunday.

But that bunt was clearly pivotal in the Cardinals' 4-0 Game 3 loss at Dodger Stadium, because it was two outs later that Steve Finley hit the bases-loaded double that gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead and sent them on their way. And there was clearly a difference of opinion in the clubhouses afterward about what had happened.

With men on first and third, Matt Morris threw a sinker to Lima and video replays seemed to show that the ball bounced back up after it was bunted, striking Lima not once, but twice. Catcher Mike Matheny thought it hit the knob of the bat, and the Cardinals thought the ball also hit Lima in the knee as he was coming out of the box.

On the same play, Matheny threw to second and the Cardinals thought the throw was in time to force out Brent Mayne. He was ruled safe, despite protests by shortstop Edgar Renteria and then manager Tony La Russa. The umps convened, and they let the play stand: sacrifice bunt and everyone was safe.

"You've got six guys out there in a series like this, and to miss two plays in one play is unfortunate," Morris said. "It bounced up and hit [Lima]. When they get together, they should be able to get that right.

"It came up and hit his bat, then I think his knee. That's what Mike said. We looked at the replay and it definitely hit him twice. It's one of those things that's frustrating, of course. I had to focus right again. I didn't think two runs were going to hold us down."

Renteria said: "If you see the replay, he's out."

Matheny gave a description of what he saw and how he handled it.

"I see a ball out in front, so I've got to make a play," Matheny explained. "I see an opportunity for a double play, regardless of how they call it. So I'm thinking two right there, and we had a good chance for it, too. It just kind of screwed up.

"Regardless [of whether the bunt hit Lima], I've got to come out and try to make sure. ... I don't want him to call it. Because I've got a chance for a double play, and then we've got a man on third base with two outs. I just do my thing, and that's play for the outs."

Lima disagreed with the Cardinals' description of what happened. When asked what he was thinking when he reached first base safely, Lima said, "I said, 'I'm the man.' The ball never hit me. Never hit my bat either. I just got lucky. [The pitch was ] 93, 94 mph, it was a sinker down. I don't know how I got it down. I said, 'If it works it works. If not, I'm doing my job.'"

La Russa said of the play: "It's a tough two runs to give up, a real tough two runs to give up. Umpires do what you ask them to do. They got together to review the play, just nobody saw it. I mean, we didn't score any runs, how can you blame the umpires?"

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.