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On verge of elimination, Cardinals losing their cool

R.B. Fallstrom Associated Press

HOUSTON – Not only are the St. Louis Cardinals losing the N.L. Championship Series 3-1, they’re losing their cool.

Manager Tony La Russa and Jim Edmonds were ejected for arguing pitch calls in the seventh and eighth innings of Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros, another frustrating game for them in an increasingly frustrating series.

“No, I don’t think we’ve lost control at all,” Edmonds said. “I think that Tony thought the situation called for him to argue, and I was just asking why that was a strike when it hadn’t been a strike all day.”

Players were trying their best to move on and concentrate on the task at hand, namely beating the Astros’ Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens in succession to make it back to the World Series for the second straight season.

“The bottom line is we still have life.,” leadoff man David Eckstein said.

Nothing has gone right the past three games, all Astros victories, for the team that led the major leagues with 100 victories, swept the Padres in the first round and went 11-5 against the Astros in the regular season.

La Russa was apparently tossed for arguing pitch calls by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, storming onto the field after reliever Jason Marquis walked Lance Berkman on four pitches to load the bases with none out. He carried out lengthy arguments with both Cuzzi and then crew chief Tim McClelland, the third base umpire.

La Russa’s argument appeared to be a cumulative matter given that none of the pitches to Berkman appeared to be close calls. La Russa approached Cuzzi after the first inning, apparently to discuss low strikes that were called, and throughout the game he had been yelling at the umpire from the dugout.

“Anything involving umpires, there’s nothing you should say after next day, next week, next year,” La Russa said. “So I have nothing to say about that.”

Edmonds was batting with a 3-1 count and a man on in the eighth when he disagreed with a high, somewhat tight pitch that was called a strike.

“All I asked was where the pitch was,” Edmonds said. “I said, ‘How do you call that ball a strike?’ and he told me ‘Don’t you come back here and argue with me.’ “

Even the mild-mannered Eckstein did some squawking after he struck out in the sixth on a checked swing.

“I try not to say much all year,” Eckstein said. “But when I say something, it’s pretty right on.”

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