ST. LOUIS -- You won't see this often. You surely would never see this in the American League. But as Tony La Russa continues to put on a managerial clinic in this NL Championship Series, he actually, for one fleeting moment, put more trust in starter Jaime Garcia's bat than in his arm Friday night.
Yes, St. Louis' 7-1 blitz of Milwaukee, which gave the Cardinals a three-games-to-two lead in this NLCS, was a strategist's delight.
Fourth inning, La Russa called for eight-hole hitter Nick Punto to drop a sacrifice bunt to set up a one-out, second-and-third situation for Garcia. It paid off when Garcia roped an RBI ground ball to shortstop.
Fifth inning, La Russa promptly yanked Garcia with two out, two on and a three-run lead so reliever Octavio Dotel could face slugger Ryan Braun.
It was textbook when Dotel fanned Braun in what turned out to be the game-changing -- game-saving? -- at-bat. And you could see why La Russa pounced to quickly: Braun now is 2 for 10 lifetime against Dotel with eight strikeouts.
Um, that's K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K.
And Braun is probably about a month out from winning the NL MVP award this year.
Chalk up another one for the Cardinals' overpowering bullpen, whose long relief in short order quickly has become the star of this NLCS.
La Russa has managed with a sense of urgency throughout this series, but it seemed even more on display in Game 5. Easy to understand why, too: When a series is 2-2, Game 5 always is pivotal. But with this thing headed back to Milwaukee, given the way the Brewers dominate at Miller Park, it was more pivotal than usual.
Had St. Louis headed to Wisconsin having to win both games in Miller Park, well, it would have been worse than bad cheese curds for the Cards.
But now the pressure is squarely on the Brewers.
St. Louis winning one of the next two in old Milwaukee? Now, that's doable.