First WC game brings about controversy

October 6, 2012

> It was an ugly, ugly sight today in Atlanta, where the Braves and Cardinals played the first ever Wild Card play-in game (or whatever you want to call it). As you’d expect, it was dramatic as ever, but things took a turn for the worse in the eighth inning.

With the Cards up 6-3 in the eighth inning, Mitchell Boggs was pitching, and allowed two baserunners to start the inning. Then, Andrelton Simmons hit what looked like a routine pop-up off the bat, and shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday each went for it. It appeared Kozma had the ball played and was about to catch it, but at the last second he ran out of the way, expecting Holliday to take charge. But, as they stared at each other in shock, the ball fell in between them. This would have loaded the bases for the Braves and set them up for a comeback.

But, after the play appeared to be over, Sam Holbrook- the left field umpire- signaled that the infield fly rule had come into effect. In other words, Simmons was out, despite the fact neither fielder caught the ball.

At first glance, it looked like Holbrook blew the call: an outfield umpire shouldn’t be calling an infield fly rule, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t how the rule works. Since Kozma- an infielder- was close enough to the ball to have made a routine play on it, the rule still came into effect.

Braves fans didn’t take it well. In fact, they went as far as throwing trash on the field, which induced a 20-minute delay and forced Mike Matheny to do some jumbling in his bullpen.

So the first instinct is to blame Holbrook, but, in reality, he was just following the rules, and we can’t blame him for that- even if the rule is beyond stupid. The infield fly rule is supposedly there to keep runners from getting doubled off (or tripled off, in some cases) on shallow pop-ups like that. But, if the fielder misses it, why should he get credit for an out? That’s his fault, and the other team should be allowed to take advantage.

But, as usual, a Bud Selig idea gets off to an awful start. My opinion on the Wild Card play-in games is for another day, however.

MY TAKE

> It’s worth noting that Holbrook was the same umpire who ejected Zack Greinke after just three batters in Houston a few months back. That was a bad call, but is probably irrelevant in this situation.

> I’m really surprised at the hate Braves fans were getting for throwing garbage on the field. Sure, it’s a classless move. But what would you have done if you were a Braves fan, and you saw a play like that occur and didn’t receive an explanation for it right away? I really don’t blame the fans at all.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> In the midst of this controversy, the Cards wound up beating the Braves by the same score of 6-3. Kyle Lohse got his first postseason win, and Matheny used his bullpen effectively. On the other side, Kris Medlen took a rare loss (though only two of the five runs he allowed were earned).

> The Rangers not winning the AL West proved costly, as the Orioles knocked them out in the American League WC game, winning 5-1. Joe Saunders, despite being 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in Arlington in his career coming in, got his first postseason win. Former Brewer J.J. Hardy contributed one RBI for the O’s.

THE NEWS

> The was a Brewers press release yesterday in which Doug Melvin addressed a few issues going into 2013. I’ll have my opinions on that up within the next few days.

THE NUMBERS

> The Braves- who had the fewest errors in baseball during the regular season- committed three in a game when it mattered most.

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Pujols has historical World Series Game 3

October 23, 2011

I know I said that I’m cheering for the Rangers in the 107th World Series. But that doesn’t mean I’m not impressed by something a certain Cardinals player did today.

Some guy named Albert Pujols had a three-home run, five-hit, six RBI game today in the third game of the World Series- a 17-6 blowout Cardinals win over the Rangers. This was arguably the best World Series game of all time for a single player, as those three homers, five hits, and six RBI haven’t been done since Reggie Jackson- AKA Mr. October- did in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

Pujols’ first homer came in the fifth inning off flamethrowing right-hander Alexi Ogando. He gave Pujols a 96 MPH fastball practically over his head, but Pujols wasn’t having any of that- he turned on it extremely quickly and pulled it into the left field seats for a three-run blast.

The second homer came off of left-handed specialist Michael Gonzalez- note that he’s a left-handed specialist– and it was to dead center field.

The third one also came off a left-handed specialist, this time veteran Darren Oliver.

If for some reason you don’t know what a left-handed specialist is, it’s a pitcher whose primary duty is to get out tough left-handed hitters. So that’s what confuses me about this. Why did Ron Washington leave in two lefty specialists- Gonzalez and Oliver- to face the best right-handed hitter in baseball? You could see both of those home runs coming before they even happened. Anyway, I have a feeling Albert will be talking to the media tonight.

But, even though I’m cheering for the Rangers, I’m slightly relieved knowing that the Brewers aren’t the only team who can’t get Pujols out. But, the Rangers apparently figured out how to get David Freese out- something the Brewers also couldn’t do.

Anyway, almost everyone in the Cards’ lineup had hits today. Rafael Furcal had one hit, Allen Craig had a home run, Pujols- actually, just read above, Matt Holliday had a hit, Lance Berkman had a pair of hits, Freese had a pair of hits and RBI, Yadier Molina had two hits and four RBI, and Ryan Theriot had a hit. The only guy who didn’t have a hit in the Cardinals’ lineup was Jon Jay- go figure. He’s having a horrible postseason. Anyway, the Cardinals also scored at least one run off of every Rangers’ pitcher.

But the clown car had yet another long and rough task today. Kyle Lohse had a typical Kyle Lohse (or you could insert the name of any other Cards starter here) start, as he completely unraveled in the fourth inning- just as he did against the Brewers in Game 4 of the NLCS. But, the clown car picked up him, like they’ve had to do so many times this postseason. Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Octavio Dotel, and Mitchell Boggs gave up a combined four runs, but the 16 runs of support were enough for them.

Here’s a funny story- the St. Louis Rams think they’re giving the Cardinals good luck. Haha, good one. You can read that story about the NFL team with no wins here, but I’m not buying it.

Anyway, one more thing about the game before I go- in the seventh inning, the left fielder for the Cards- Holliday- was attempting to read a fly ball that would eventually become a sacrifice fly for the Rangers. But, as Holliday was making the catch, some Rangers fan- at least I think he was a Rangers fan- threw a white ball onto the field. I don’t know if he was attempting to hit Holliday with it, but if he was, the only guy he was embarrassing was himself- his throw went nowhere. And, to top it all off, he was escorted out of the game. Nice job.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I might make some updates later if I have time, but, if not, come back tomorrow for highlights of Game 4.


Wolf comes through as Brewers even series at 2-2

October 14, 2011

This is exactly what the Brewers needed. Making a comeback after an early deficit, and a good start from someone not named Yovani Gallardo.

The Brewers defeated the Cardinals today, 4-2, in a crucial win for them. Had they lost today, the Cardinals would have needed only to win tomorrow to go to the World Series. But, with the win today, the NLCS is now evened up at 2-2- and it’s still there for anyone to take.

Randy Wolf came through right when the Brewers needed him. He went seven strong innings while giving up two runs on six hits. He also walked one and struck out six. If you compare this to Wolf’s last start- when his ERA finished at 22.50 after four innings in a start against the Diamondbacks during the NLDS- this was as good as it gets.

The Cardinals struck first yet again today. They’ve now scored the first run in every game this series. Today, the first run came from a Matt Holliday “home run”- if you can even call it that. Holliday got way under- and I mean way under- a pitch away from him, and it just stayed inside the foul pole, and barely made if over the wall. I swear, it was the luckiest home run I’ve ever seen (other than maybe Jake Westbrook’s grand slam earlier this year against the Brewers). Anyway, the second Cardinals run came on a home run by Allen Craig. At least he deserved his home run…

But the Brewers finally got some clutch hits, starting in the fourth inning. Jerry Hairston Jr. hit a RBI double to cut the deficit to 2-1, then Yuniesky Betancourt followed up with a RBI single to tie it up. The Brewers would then take the lead in the fifth on Ryan Braun’s RBI single. They scored their fourth and final run in the sixth inning when George Kottaras reached on a fielding error by second baseman Ryan Theriot, which allowed Rickie Weeks to score.

Anyway, the Brewers finished with scoreless innings from Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. And Axford hit 99 MPH for the first time, at least that I’ve seen.

Here’s kind of a crazy stat about Cardinals pitching in this series- none of their pitchers have made it past the fifth inning, and their cumulative ERA is over 7.00. I can’t even believe they’re winning games with their pitchers not going deep. But the clown car- excuse me, the Cardinals’ bullpen- has had to do a lot of work. They got it done yesterday after Chris Carpenter’s five innings start, but couldn’t today after Kyle Lohse’s 4 1/3 inning start. It was actually Mitchell Boggs who allowed the go-ahead to Braun, but the runner was inherited from Lohse, so he still took the loss.

Tomorrow is a big game for the Brewers. If they win, they take the series lead and have the advantage to win, but same goes for the Cards if they win. Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’s coming off a rough start in Game 1. He allowed six runs in 6+ innings, but still took the win, thanks to nine runs of support. The Cardinals will counter with Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56 ERA), who also had a rough start in Game 1: he gave up six runs in four innings. But, Garcia has pitched much better at Busch Stadium than on the road this year- in fact, he has a complete game shutout against the Brewers at Busch this year.


Looking onwards to Game 3…

October 12, 2011

If you saw the Brewer game last night, you probably know why I titled this post the way I did.

A day after taking the all-important game 1 of the NLCS, the Brewers were destroyed by the Cardinals in game 2, 12-3. But, in my opinion, the Brewers didn’t lose to the Cardinals- they lost to Albert Pujols. The Machine went 4-f0r-5 with three doubles, a two-run homer, and five RBI. The only Brewers pitcher to retire Pujols was Chris Narveson, who made him ground out in the eighth inning. After that out, the Milwaukee crowd stood up and gave a standing ovation, probably with a sense of sarcasm. Anyway, two Pujols’ four hits came off struggling Brewers starter Shaun Marcum, who is in the middle of a horrible stretch.

Now, there are a couple theories as to why Marcum is having such a tough time on the mound right now. My first guess is that he’s just running out of gas, because he’s never pitched this many innings in his career. Marcum threw 200 2/3 innings this year, which was a career-high for him. If you include his two awful postseason starts, he’s thrown 209 1/3 innings. The other theory is that he’s just nervous because this is his first time in the postseason- his former team, the Blue Jays, were rarely ever contenders while he was there.

Anyway, despite this blowout game by the Cardinals, Tony La Russa still found a way to use practically every pitcher in his bullpen. He removed starter Edwin Jackson after just 4 1/3 innings because his pitch count was getting high early, and he didn’t trust Jackson to get out of a fifth inning jam. So, from there, La Russa went on to use Arthur Rhodes, Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte. This has to be the first time I’ve seen the team on the winning side of a blowout game manage to use six relievers (seven total pitchers). Even the Brewers only had to use five pitchers, despite Marcum going just four innings. And Kameron Loe pitching one third of inning while giving up four runs (that 108.00 ERA fits him well).

Tomorrow will be a battle of aces- Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (11-9. 3.45 ERA). This should be an interesting matchup, considering neither has had much success against the opposing team. Gallardo is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in his career against the Cards, while Carpenter is 5-4 with a 4.67 ERA in his career against the Brewers.

By the way, Jeff Suppan is apparently going to be throwing out the first pitch before game 3. I don’t know if this is the Cardinals’ way of making fun of the Brewers, but I don’t see why they’d have any other reason to let this former bust throw out the first pitch. Anyway, if you don’t know the story of Suppan and the Brewers, well- actually, just consider yourself lucky.

Oh, and here’s another funny thing before I go- Theo Epstein is more than likely becoming the general manager of the Cubs. I let you laugh at that yourself instead of giving a long explanation. Because even I can’t explain why the Red Sox GM would want to become the Cubs GM.