Did Tony La Russa pull a fast one on Dusty Baker last night?

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Tony La Russa used the weather and the rules to his advantage in last night’s 4-2 win over the Reds, moving his club back into first place in the National League Central.

La Russa scratched Kyle McClellan from his scheduled start because of the threat of inclement weather, instead sending Miguel Batista out for the first inning. He threw just six pitches before play was stopped, which resulted in a rain delay of two hours and 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Edinson Volquez warmed up as the starting pitcher for the Reds, but never entered the game. When play resumed, McClellan came out to pitch for the Cardinals while Dusty Baker was forced to use Matt Maloney.

Maloney lasted just two-plus innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, while McClellan allowed two runs over six innings for his third win of the season. Well played, La Russa.

I honestly never knew this until last night, but MLB rules state that the home team — and not the umpires — have control over whether a game starts on time. According to Matthew Leach of MLB.com, Baker said he was informed that there was a window to play the ballgame.

“It’s really a tough start,” Baker said. “The information that we received was probably not the same information they received, or else we wouldn’t have started [Volquez] in the first place. We were told there was going to be a window of opportunity there. That window lasted about three minutes.”

While it sure seems like La Russa used the situation to his advantage, don’t you think Baker could have just fired up the internet or had someone check the weather forecast before sending Volquez out to the bullpen? Wasn’t he at least a little suspicious when Batista began to warm up for the Cardinals? Just sounds like he was one-upped by his longtime rival.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.