ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Texas manager Ron Washington said he would not fancy playing chess against Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, but this is baseball and the Rangers skipper defended his moves in Wednesday's World Series opening defeat.
La Russa, one of the sport's most cerebral helmsmen, armed with a law degree and third on the all-time managers' wins list, has been roundly praised for pushing the right buttons in Game One, while Washington's moves backfired in a 3-2 loss.
"I don't think I can win a chess game against Tony," Washington said when asked Thursday about the 'chess match' of moves and counter moves the managers made in the opener.
"The best I can do is try to put my players in a position to be successful and hope that they execute, and if they execute, I think the chess matches take care of themselves.
"National League is a different type of game," added Washington about pinch-hitting for pitchers, maneuvering position changes and playing percentages in using relievers.
"There's all kinds of moving parts, and once again, it just comes down to the players execute in whatever position you put them in. Last night, (Allen) Craig executed and we didn't."
Craig delivered the deciding run with a two-out pinch-hit single in the sixth inning off right-handed reliever Alexi Ogando, brought in expressly to face the Cards' hitter.
The St. Louis bench player, who has hit right-handed pitchers better than left-handers this season, came through.
In the next inning, Washington's choice of pinch-hitters Craig Gentry and Esteban German against lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski failed to pan out with both batters striking out after Texas put two runners on base.
Some eyebrows were raised at the decision to tab the seldom-used German, who had not yet had a postseason at-bat.
"He's a contact hitter," Washington said about German. I thought he could handle Rzepczynski's off-speed stuff.
"They had an opportunity to to push a run across. Their pinch-hitter got it done and ours didn't."
La Russa said Game One decisions worked out for his side, but he would not bask in that success since they could have worked the other way.
"I'm just not affected by it because the same compliment can be a criticism the next day," said La Russa. "And mostly it comes down to you make a move. If it works, 'hey, what a good move.' If it doesn't work, 'what was he thinking? He should have done something else.' That's just the name of the game."
The St Louis manager defended his counterpart.
"I had to listen to Ron being asked about his pinch hitter. Well, we've got a vital interest in that game and when German walks out of that dugout we're like, 'oh crap.'
"When he was in Kansas City (Royals) he had a really nice stroke and gets base hits all over the ballpark. He chased a bad pitch...
"I've been told this a long time ago -- the compliments and the criticism, basically you just ignore them. Do the best you can."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)