HOUSTON (AP) – Not only are the St. Louis Cardinals losing the NL 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’ big three of Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens in succession to make it back to the World Series for the second straight season.

“Guess what, if we’re going to be a champion we’ve got to come back,” leadoff man David Eckstein said. “The bottom line is we still have life.”

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.

McClelland shielded La Russa from Cuzzi for several minutes, towering over him as the pair moved in lock step, before the manager finally walked off the field. After a delay of four or five minutes, the next batter, Ensberg, hit a sacrifice fly to give the Astros a 2-1 lead.

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.

“I’m ready to discuss anything about the game,” La Russa said. “Anything involving umpires, there’s nothing you should say after next day, next week, next year. 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.”‘

Edmonds said that pitch wasn’t a strike “the whole game. But it’s beside the point now. We’ve got to do a better job with getting hits and scoring runs.”

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