Talking Points: La Russa defends Pujols ... again

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Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has been around baseball long enough to know that there are two ways to make sure a feared slugger doesn’t beat you by himself.

“You pitch him very carefully, never give in,” La Russa said, “or you intentionally walk him.”

Texas is choosing the latter with Albert Pujols.

The Cardinals’ star first baseman was put on base intentionally three times in the Rangers’ 4-2 win Monday night, which gave Texas a 3-2 lead as the World Series shifts back to St. Louis. Game 6 is scheduled for Wednesday night.

Which makes it all the more curious why La Russa was defending Pujols calling for a hit-and-run from the batter’s box — and without La Russa’s knowledge — with Allen Craig on first in the seventh inning Monday.

The result was a ball way outside on a 1-1 count and Craig was easily thrown out. Then the Rangers intentionally walked Pujols.

After the game, La Russa called the play a “mix-up” but refused to say anything more. On Tuesday, La Russa said both plays were called by Pujols from the batter’s box without his knowledge.

“Albert has the ability on this club to put a hit and run on,” La Russa said. “Whenever I’ve been a manager and a player has a real good feel and can handle the bat and he wanted to be able to put a play on, he’s been given that right. It has everything to do with what Albert has earned as far as his understanding of the game.”

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The Cardinals are the team facing elimination in Game 6 of the World Series. But make no mistake: There is pressure on the Rangers, too.

In the past eight Games 7 of the World Series, the home team has won, dating all the way back to the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals.

There has not been a Game 7 of a World Series since 2002.

Also, Texas manager Ron Washington is prepared to give the ball to starting pitcher Matt Harrison in Game 7. Harrison got shelled in Game 3, when the Cardinals won 16-7.

“Matt Harrison earned it,” Washington said. “You think Derek Holland earned his start (Sunday) night if you want to talk about struggles. That’s the way we roll.”

In his previous start, Holland gave up four runs in 4⅔ innings and got a no-decision in the Rangers’ AL championship series-clinching win over Detroit.