By BEN WALKER
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland knew the statistics, the score and the situation. Having worked with the St. Louis Cardinals for six years, he certainly knew all about Albert Pujols.
And while the baseball world buzzes about Leyland's decision to pitch to Pujols in Game 1 of the World Series, here's the answer: The Detroit manager made the right call.
It didn't pan out, as we all saw Saturday night. Leyland got pounded about as hard as that ball Pujols crushed early, propelling the Cardinals to a 7-2 victory.
But that didn't make it wrong. Rather than show up like some sort of 'fraidy cat and tell his Tigers they should be spooked by Pujols, they challenged him.
"I don't necessarily agree with what everybody says that it was a terrible move," Leyland said Sunday. "I mean, that's just my opinion."
"The manager takes that responsibility. I take it and I accept it and it's one of those things where people can have a field day with and go for it. I understand that. That's just part of the business."
Mike Schmidt understood. He was the unanimous NL MVP in 1980, and MVP in the World Series the same year. The Kansas City Royals still pitched to him.
"We question Leyland because we know the results," Schmidt said Sunday. "That's what makes sports great."
Leyland issued just 35 intentional walks the entire season and prefers to make hitters earn their way on base.
"I'm not going to sit up here today and change my opinion," he said Sunday.
Pujols struck out the first time up Saturday night, fooled by Justin Verlander's nasty chin-to-shin curveball.
The Cardinals led 2-1 when Pujols walked to the plate in the third with two outs, a runner on second and Jim Edmonds on deck.
Verlander brought 94 mph heat on the first pitch, and Pujols reached for an outside fastball and hit a rocket into the right-field seats.
"That wasn't supposed to happen," Leyland said. "We thought if we did what we were trying to do, and if we walked him, that would be OK. And if we could get him maybe to expand and make an out, that would be better. Obviously, that didn't happen."
Eckstin ss5000Grndsn cf4000
Duncan dh4111Monroe lf4221
PrWlsn dh1000Planco 2b4000
Pujols 1b3212MOrdz rf3000
Edmnd cf4121CGillen 1b4021
Rolen 3b4221IRdrgz c4000
JEcrcn rf3001Casey dh3000
Blliard 2b4000Inge 3b3000
YMolna c4110RSntgo ss2000
Tguchi lf4010Thmes ph1000
E--Rolen (1), JEncarnacion (1), Inge 2 (2), Verlander (1). LOB--St. Louis 4, Detroit 4. 2B--Duncan (1), Rolen (1), Monroe (1). HR--Pujols (1), Rolen (1), Monroe (1).
Reyes pitched to 1 batter in the 9th, Verlander pitched to 3 batters in the 6th. WP--JWalker. Umpires--Home, Randy Marsh; First, Alfonso Marquez; Second, Wally Bell; Third, Mike Winters; Left, John Hirschbeck; Right, Tim McClelland. T--2:54. A--42,479.
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