It turns out that Julian Tavarez’s seventh-inning dugout tantrum in Game 4 of the National League championship series had bigger consequences than merely embarrassing the St. Louis Cardinals on national TV.
The right-handed reliever broke bones in two fingers on his left hand when he punched a dugout phone Sunday and did not pitch in Game 5 on Monday at Minute Maid Park, after having the fingers placed in a custom splint.
“Medically, in that splint it’s OK for him to go out and play,” said George Paletta, the Cardinal team doctor. “But I can’t tell you whether he would be able to do that successfully.”
Tavarez, who had yielded Carlos Beltran’s go-ahead homer in the seventh of the Houston Astros’ 6-5 victory, attacked a water cooler and attempted to dislodge a phone on his return to the dugout after the inning.
Tavarez was not expected to sit out nearly as much time as New York Yankee pitcher Kevin Brown, sidelined almost a month after breaking his left hand in early September when he punched a clubhouse wall. Brown needed two pins surgically implanted in his hand.
Tavarez, who tested his splint while playing catch during batting practice Monday, declined to comment as he walked off the field.
St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa said he understood how Tavarez could lose control of his emotions after failing to retire the Astros in an important situation.
“I’m not saying that I pat him on the back for going out of control,” La Russa said, “but I would pat him on the back for caring enough to get upset.... For eight months he’s been great. So he had a hiccup. He’s still great.”
La Russa said before Game 5 that he had not received a promised apology from Astro officials after a Minute Maid Park scoreboard operator replayed Tavarez’s dugout tantrum on the Jumbotron during Game 4.
Jay Lucas, Astro vice president of communication, told reporters Sunday he would apologize to La Russa and St. Louis General Manager Walt Jocketty after the incident, which had upset La Russa.
“Even [Frank] Sinatra clears his throat,” La Russa said after Game 4, “and I think that was below their standards and that was disappointing.”
La Russa changed his tune Monday, saying an apology wasn’t necessary.
“So they had a hiccup, they’re still classy,” La Russa said. “You don’t forget how they’ve been for years. It’s not a big deal.”
If it’s not the heat that causes the Astros to keep the Minute Maid Park roof closed, it’s the humidity.
With the Astros poised to play host to their first night game of the playoffs Monday, there was widespread speculation that the roof would remain open for the first time in their five home playoff games.
The roof had been closed earlier in the playoffs because of concerns about shadows creeping across the field and temperatures that soared into the upper 80s.
Monday, the reason cited for keeping the roof closed was humidity.
“We’ve decided to go ahead and keep the roof closed just to keep the conditions the same as we’ve had them the whole series,” Houston Manager Phil Garner said before the game.
Houston reserve infielder Mike Lamb rejoined the team before Game 5 after sitting out the previous two games to be with his wife for the birth of their son, Andrew.
Astros vs. Cardinals / NL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Houston leads best-of-seven series, 3-2:
GAME 1 St. Louis 10, Houston 7
* Albert Pujols homers in the first, and Cardinals score six runs in the sixth.
GAME 2 St. Louis 6, Houston 4
* Pujols and Scott Rolen homer as the Cardinals win in a steady downpour.
GAME 3 Houston 5, St. Louis 2
* Astro pitchers Roger Clemens and Brad Lidge combine on a five-hitter.
GAME 4 Houston 6, St. Louis 5
* Astros erase a 4-1 deficit and win on Carlos Beltran’s homer in the seventh.
GAME 5 Houston 3, St. Louis 0
* Jeff Kent hits a three-run homer in the ninth after a classic pitchers’ duel.
GAME 6 Wednesday, Houston at St. Louis,
1 p.m., Channel 11
GAME 7 *Thursday, Houston at St. Louis,
5 p.m., Channel 11
* If necessary; all times Pacific.