La Russa finds positives in loss
Manager pleased with way National League fought back
DETROIT -- Typically inconsolable after a loss, Tony La Russa found something small but significant to enjoy in the National League's 7-5 defeat in the All-Star Game. His All-Stars, like his St. Louis Cardinals, refused to pack it in and made the game competitive.
La Russa suffered his first All-Star Game loss in four tries on Tuesday night, but the Senior Circuit's contingent lived by its skipper's well-known creed: play nine innings. A game that could have gotten out of hand a couple of times was never put completely out of reach, and the NL crept back into contention over the final frames.
"I feel a lot better because we rallied," La Russa said. "We're representing the National League, we're not representing the St. Louis Cardinals. You get beat 7-0, 10-1, that's not competitive. Being competitive, that's a small victory.
"We were down 7-0, and they had to save the game in the ninth. They hit the ball out of the park, but they had a couple of little bloopers that really hurt. We had a couple of balls we hit hard that went into double plays. It's a tough loss."
La Russa saw his ace starting pitcher, Chris Carpenter, comport himself well in his first All-Star start. He got all but one of his own players -- closer Jason Isringhausen -- into the game, and everybody emerged as healthy as he came in.
"It's a big stage, and it's great practice for what's ahead of us," La Russa said, referring to the Cards' designs on another postseason run. "Carp had a chance to start and he handled himself. David [Eckstein] has been there before, but it's always good practice. Jimmy [Edmonds] hit a line drive and put on a good swing."
La Russa became the fourth manager to helm an All-Star team for both leagues, joining Sparky Anderson, Alvin Dark and Dick Williams. He always treasures his chances to attend the game's so-called "jewel events," and that was true again.
"I think the city, whatever the organizing committee or just the Tigers, whoever put this thing together was outstanding," La Russa said. "I really think, I've been in a few of them and players get a feel when the host city is excited about the game and they do the little extras.
"I've had a couple really good ones and a couple that you thought, 'Hey, they had it and they didn't really appreciate us being here.' I think this was on the plus side. Our guys were definitely treated great and I think we all congratulate Detroit, the Tigers, whoever put this thing together. It was outstanding."
With an eye at all times on winning the World Series, La Russa saw more positives in that quest than negatives on Tuesday. If his team does in fact make the Fall Classic, it will not have home-field advantage, and that can be a negative. But the chance for Carpenter to pitch in such a charged atmosphere, and for three other of his players to get more big-event experience, left him encouraged.
"You can't start [Carpenter] if he doesn't deserve it, but we pick up an extra there," La Russa said. "It's like him starting Opening Day. Those are all different [pluses].
"I guarantee you that we won't have one thought or conversation about not having home-field advantage. Because, you know, it's an American League, National thing, wasn't a Cardinal thing. Secondly, we've got to do so much to get a chance to play in October, that you've got to do so much to have that problem."
And within a matter of hours, he'll get back to trying to make sure he has that problem.
"I can't wait for this plane trip," Eckstein said. "I'm sure he'll probably talk to us on the way home and make sure we're getting focused for Friday night's game."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.