ATLANTA -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said before his team's 8-3 victory in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series that Andy Benes would start Game 4 Sunday. But that was before he found out that Benes was a bit banged up after Game 1.
Benes, who was pulled for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning of what turned into a 4-2 defeat to the Atlanta Braves, came out of the game with a sore back. Not from throwing any of his 88 pitches, but from sliding after tagging up from second base in the third inning. Benes had reached second on a double against Braves starter John Smoltz.
"I dove; I should have slid," said Benes.
Benes said he tried to tag up because he didn't think he would have been able to score from second on a base hit by leadoff hitter Ozzie Smith, who wound up grounding out.
Asked when was the last time he tagged up, Benes smiled. "It's been awhile," he said and then laughed. "When Ozzie grounded out, I thought, 'All that work for nothing.' "
La Russa said he is confident that Benes would still be able to pitch, but would reserve his decision until Sunday.
Meanwhile, Braves manager Bobby Cox said after last night's defeat that former Arundel High School star Denny Neagle will start Game 4 despite pitching an inning of relief in Game 2.
Neagle was 14-6 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and 2-3 with the Braves this season.
Shuffling the Cards
La Russa made two lineup changes for Game 2, moving Royce Clayton into Smith's spot at shortstop and Mike Gallego for Luis Alicea at second in the No. 8 spot in the batting order.
Clayton got on base three times and the top four hitters went from a collective 1-for-16 to 7-for-16. Former Brave Ron Gant had three hits, and Clayton and Brian Jordan (Milford Mill) each went 2-for-4.
You might remember that Alicea was involved in two key plays in Game 1, hitting weakly to left with two on and none out in the seventh with the score tied at 2-2, then dropping a throw after getting over to cover first too late in the eighth. It led to Javy Lopez's game-winning, two-run single.
"I'm not going to lie -- Luis did hyper-extend his elbow on that play," said LaRussa. "But I like Mike in the ballgame for some reasons."
The reason is that La Russa is getting a little tired of Alicea's shaky defense. He made an error on a line drive that would have ended Game 3 of the Division Series against the San Diego Padres, and admittedly failed to cover first base in time Wednesday night.
Though he only has one hit in the postseason, Alicea was hitting .297 lifetime against Game 2 starter Greg Maddux.
Robinson makes visit
Frank Robinson was at last night's game as a guest of National League president Len Coleman. Asked what he's doing these days, Robinson, 61, said: "Nothing. I ran errands and I watched a lot of ballgames."
Actually, Robinson is quietly trying to get back into the game. After his front-office contract ran out with the Orioles last winter, Robinson made a couple of phone calls, one of them to Jerry Colangelo, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Robinson's former boss, Roland Hemond, is executive vice president of the expansion team, which will begin playing next season.
Robinson said that he would prefer going to a team in a front-office position, but wouldn't rule out a field position either. "I figured I have about five years left," he said. "I missed it an awful lot. It was the first time in 42 years that I didn't go to spring training."
Robinson said he thought umpire Rich Garcia shouldn't be blamed for the phantom home run that helped cost the Orioles Game 1 of their championship series against the New York Yankees.
"It's a tough call for an umpire to make running down the line like that," he said. "He thought the ball was out of the park. We have the benefit of instant replay. He didn't."
Asked if he ever had any problems with Yankees fans while playing right field for the Orioles or Cincinnati Reds, Robinson recalled the first game of a 1966 doubleheader, when he went over what was then a waist-high fence to rob Roy White of what would have been a game-winning three-run homer.
"The Yankees must have had 30 people come in to sign affidavits saying I dropped the ball. The second game, they were throwing all kinds of things at me: batteries, nuts, fruit. I found out after the game there was a death threat."
Pub Date: 10/11/96