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10/13/06 1:55 AM ET

Mailbag: Cards' pinch-hitting decisions

Barry M. Bloom answers fans' questions about NLCS Game 1

NEW YORK -- A sampling of the e-mails sent in before and during Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Cardinals and Mets:

Why would we keep using Scott Spiezio in a pinch-hitting role when he has [struggled] so badly. I believe he was batting somewhere in the neighborhood of .290 when starting games, and well below average in a pinch-hitting role. John Rodriguez has done much better in pinch-hitting roles, and so has [Aaron] Miles. Although Miles has much less pop in his bat, he is a tough out.
-- Luke G.

Your boy, Tony La Russa, likes to have the ability to use Spiezio as a switch-hitter in certain critical spots, as he did when he hit him for the lefty-swinging Jim Edmonds in the ninth inning. And don't discount Spiezio's big-game ability. That homer in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, when Spiezio helped save the championship for the Angels over the Giants, still looms big.

When will the Friday Game 2 time at Shea Stadium be announced?
-- Tony L.

We got a lot of mail about this all day on Thursday. If you haven't heard already, Game 2 is slotted for an 8:05 p.m. ET start. And don't forget, fans who had tickets for Wednesday's Game 1 rainout should use those tickets on Friday.

Has there been any interest in having Shea Stadium open so fans can watch the Mets' away playoff games on the big screen? Sure we can watch it in the privacy of our homes, but I would think that there would be a good turnout.
-- John F.

Not sure about Shea, but Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that all of the NLCS and World Series games will be shown on the big screen in Times Square. That ought to be a fun experience.

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Who do you think will start for the Cardinals in Game 5? It would be tough to throw Jeff Weaver on three days' rest, but Brad Thompson is the only one in the bullpen who has started games lately (at Triple-A).
-- Kyle D.

Good question. Both managers have boxed themselves in because of their roster choices, which are now locked in for the series. Without Jason Marquis on the NLCS roster, I don't see La Russa having much choice except to start Weaver in Game 5, and he stated that before the game on Thursday night. Mets manager Willie Randolph has already said his rotation remains the same, which means he'll have to come back with Tom Glavine on short rest, as well.

Could Aaron Heilman start for the Mets in Game 4, and go for three to five innings, instead of Oliver Perez? And why couldn't they have Brian Bannister pitching instead of Perez?
-- Aidan G.

Heilman hasn't made a start all season, so that's not going to happen. And Bannister is not on the Mets' NLCS roster. Thus, he's ineligible. Because of the injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, the Mets don't have many options. At least Perez made 22 big-league starts this past season, seven with the Mets.

I realize that Albert Pujols is a great player and probably the best hitter in the league right now, but why is there so much talk about him against the Mets when it's a collective effort? And to be honest, the Cardinals' lineup cannot compare to the Mets' lineup.
-- PR, Harlem, New York City

You are right about comparing the two lineups, which makes cutting off Pujols all the more important in this series. The Cardinals have played five playoff games now and have lost two of them. In the two losses, Pujols was kept off base. In the three wins, Pujols had a two-run homer, a game-winning single and scored the winning run after leading off the inning with a walk.

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Why isn't Miles playing more in the postseason? Ronnie Belliard is great, but doesn't Miles have a more dependable bat?
-- Susan P.

Belliard has had a great postseason, both in the field and at the plate. And Miles is considered to be a decent fill-in player. He did a great job at shortstop when David Eckstein was out, but right now La Russa wants to use him off the bench.

Why did La Russa let Weaver pitch to Carlos Delgado in the sixth inning? If he had looked at his stat sheet, he would've seen that Delgado hit a grand slam off Weaver the last time he faced him. Why didn't he take an early call to the bullpen in favor a better percentage?
-- Kyle

La Russa stayed with Weaver against Delgado after Carlos Beltran homered out of loyalty, because of the impressive game he pitched. Weaver allowed four hits, and the Mets had only had two baserunners until Paul Lo Duca singled with two out in the sixth inning. In the interview room, La Russa insisted that Weaver was at least the equal of Glavine, saying, "Don't suggest that he was a losing pitcher. He was outstanding." Delgado's double had no bearing on the outcome, anyway.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.