Cards closer depends on situation
La Russa won't hand role to Isringhausen
PITTSBURGH -- Jason Isringhausen is trying to regain his role as Cardinals closer. He hit a bump in the road on Saturday night in Pittsburgh trying to protect a four-run St. Louis lead in the ninth inning. He gave up a three-run homer to Nate McLouth that was a key factor in the Pirates' 12-11 comeback win in 10 innings.
"Isringhausen walked a guy with a four-run lead," manager Tony La Russa said. "He made a great pitch to [Jose] Bautista and walks [Jason] Michaels, which is not good baseball. And then he got a tough break on an infield hit and then he got the ball up -- three-run homer."
Isringhausen had not pitched since Wednesday. He was not used on Friday night in case there was a save opportunity. La Russa indicated earlier in the week that he plans to choose his closer game by game and situation by situation. Ryan Franklin, who surrendered two runs in the bullpen meltdown on Saturday night, is expected to get the most chances to close.
Franklin is the team leader with 12 saves, most of them collected since he replaced Isringhausen as the team's closer.
Isringhausen took the ninth-inning trouble on Saturday in stride.
"I'm just going to shake it off," Isringhausen explained. "If I get the chance to get in there on Sunday -- maybe he'll put me in there -- maybe not. I want to go out there and throw it in there again, and if it gets hit, it gets hit. More times than not it doesn't. I've been pitching well up until tonight and I got a strikeout and a walk and a little bleeding base hit and made a bad pitch to McLouth, who's having a good year."
La Russa is not ready to commit to Isringhausen as closer.
"I know he's asking about it. I know he thinks he's ready," La Russa said prior to Saturday night's game. "When he's the best guy, he'll be there. I think it's good that he has the challenge to be the best. I don't think you can give that [role] away.
"It's not about Isringhausen being the closer. It's about who has the best chance to get the outs in the ninth. That puts the focus in the wrong place -- this is not tennis or golf -- it's a team game. When Isringhausen closes, he's the best guy. Whatever you think the team needs, that's what you do and that's how guys have a chance to perform."
For his part Isringhausen isn't putting pressure on himself with each appearance.
"I'm just trying to go out there and get outs," Isringhausen said. "That's going to be their decision if they want me back in that position or not. I just let them do their job, and I'll do mine."
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.