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10/16/06 2:01 AM ET

Chess Match: Mets power up

Randolph outmaneuvers La Russa in Game 4 slugfest

ST. LOUIS -- Pitching and pinch-hitting decisions dominated Game 4. This time, second-year Mets manager Willie Randolph seemed to get the best of it, while Cards manager Tony La Russa outmaneuvered himself.

To lift Reyes or not to lift Reyes
The situation: Rookie starter Anthony Reyes had been struggling, for sure. Through four innings he had thrown 86 pitches, having allowed solo homers during the third inning to Carlos Beltran and David Wright. Still, the score was tied, 2-2, and Reyes had only allowed three hits (while walking four).

The decision: La Russa lifted Reyes for Brad Thompson. Up to that point, the Cards bullpen had only allowed one run in 20 2/3 innings this postseason.

The outcome: La Russa could have brought in a left-hander to turn around the switch-hitting Beltran and to face the lefty-swinging Carlos Delgado. Instead, Beltran singled and Delgado hit a three-run homer against the right-handed Thompson. The lefty, Randy Flores, was brought in two batters later.

The analysis: "Just watching the game, we realized it was a big challenge for him. We watched him and thought he handled himself well, but we weren't going to push him very much past that anyway." -- La Russa, when asked why he lifted Reyes at that juncture

To hit for Perez or not
The situation: In that same fifth inning, Oliver Perez is due up with two outs and runners on first and third. Perez had allowed two runs on six hits through the first four innings.

The decision: Randolph sends up Perez instead of a pinch-hitter.

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The outcome: Perez whiffed on a full-count pitch to end the inning. In the top of the fifth, Eckstein nailed Perez for a leadoff homer. But then Perez whiffed Scott Spiezio and Albert Pujols before Juan Encarnacion flied to center, ending the inning. In the sixth, Perez allowed two more homers -- to Jim Edmonds and Yadier Molina -- and was yanked.

The analysis: "He was going to stay in the game [at that point]. He was pitching well. We had a three-run lead at the time, and I think it was still in the bottom of the fifth. He was going to go back out. He was throwing the ball well." -- Randolph, when asked if he considered pinch-hitting for Perez

Lefty reliever redux
The situation: La Russa sends in right-hander Josh Hancock to face the top of the Mets' order, opening the sixth with New York leading, 5-3. The Mets load the bases again, bringing the left-handed-hitting Delgado up.

The decision: La Russa lets Hancock face Delgado instead of bringing in left-hander Tyler Johnson.

The outcome: Delgado hits a ground-rule double to knock in two more runs. Johnson comes in two batters later with the bases loaded to face lefty-swinging Shawn Green, who singles in another run. The flood gates open and the Mets score six times in the inning.

The analysis: "Both [Thompson and Hancock] have been effective against left-handed hitters, and there was a lot of game left to pitch. We were hoping to get a couple innings each from those guys to kind of piece together the rest of it. We just didn't make good pitches. They can get all of those guys out making good pitches." -- La Russa, referring to the two situations he let the right-handers face Delgado

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.