July 2010

Note of the night/Stat of the day, July 28

Note of the night: When Albert Pujols hit a potential double-play ball in the 11th inning on Wednesday night, he pulled up well short of the bag. Even after a bobble on the relay throw, it took another bobble for Pujols to be safe on the ball.


Then the next batter, Matt Holliday, hit another grounder, and Pujols didn’t make the first attempt to break up the double play.

ESPN noticed. Fans noticed. It got a lot of attention, and rightly so. So we asked Pujols about it after the game, and he explained.
The slugger said he came up with some left calf tightness as he was running to first on the grounder, and that’s why he pulled up. It wasn’t too much for him to come out of the game, but it was enough that he felt he needed to play cautiously. That was magnified, in his mind, by the fact that the Cardinals had just about run out of players.
I included some of his comments in my game story, which is up on the site, but here’s what he had to say at some more length.
“I did it actually running,” he said. “I tried to make sure that they didn’t turn a double play. I told Chad [Blair, the Cardinals' video coordinator] when I came in, I felt my calf got a little tight. I just wanted to make sure, we didn’t have any more players, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid to come out of the game. I hit the ball and I took off, and about halfway to the line, I felt it getting tight and I kind of pulled back. I’m glad it was a bad throw. 
“Another day, with my legs fresh, I probably would have tried to break up the double play. But that’s the way it goes. I pulled back, and that’s the smart play. You can look at it a different way. You can look at it like I wasn’t hustling, but you know what? Late in the game like that, if I feel good, I’m going to do everything that I can to try to break up the double play. But when you don’t have anybody in extra innings and you feel something, the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself and be the last guy and throw a pitcher out there to play your position.”
It definitely looked like Pujols was still moving gingerly as the game went on, but it doesn’t seem to be anything severe.
“I’ll be fine,” Pujols said when asked about Thursday afternoon’s game. “Little massage, get it loose. t’s nothing like a pull or anything. I felt it more like a little tight.”
We asked TLR whether Pujols would be in the lineup tomorrow (actually later today — about 9 hours away as I write this), and he was noncommittal. But it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him get a breather after a 13-inning game, especially with a knuckleballer pitching for the Mets.
Stat of the day: Following this afternoon’s game against the Mets, the Cardinals’ next six weeks break down as follows: 27 games against teams with losing records, including 16 against the Pirates, Astros and Nationals; 6 games against the Reds; and exactly one series that fits neither of those categories (3 games against the Giants at home in late August).
This is a serious opportunity for this team to get well and take control of the division race, if it’s good enough to do so. By contrast, during that same stretch, the Reds have series against the Braves, Dodgers, Giants and Rockies as well as the head-to-head games.
Fun with double situational splits: Colby Rasmus is 14-for-47 (.298) with six extra-base hits, five walks and nine strikeouts against left-handed pitchers since June 1. He’s slugging .553 with a .365 on-base percentage against lefties in that span.
And, finally, the playlist:
Sometimes New York puts me in a hip-hop mood. Sometimes artsy stuff, sometimes punk. And sometimes, NYC puts me in a Stones mood. So tonight, it’s five NYC-inflected Stones songs.
“When the Whip Comes Down”
“Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”
“Dance Pt. 1″
“She Was Hot”
“Shattered”
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, July 27

Note of the night: Lots of apparent injuries and injury scares tonight, but after asking about them all, it sounds like everybody is OK.

Yadier Molina came out of the game early not because of injury, but just because the game was already starting to get a bit out of hand. TLR figured he would “save him some innings” while also getting Jason LaRue a chance to play. It’s a pretty fair guess that LaRue’s next start won’t come till at least Saturday.
Brendan Ryan was struck on the fingernail of his index finger by a pitch, but came through it just fine and stayed in the game. Sounded like it was a nonissue.
Albert Pujols appeared to wince when he ran out a grounder in the third inning, but TLR also said that Pujols was fine. 
“I asked him if he was OK,” La Russa said. “Said he was good to go.”
Stat of the day: Adam Wainwright has allowed nine homers in 72 innings on the road. At home, he’s allowed two homers in 81 1/3 innings.

Fun with double situational splits: Against lefties in night games this season, Ryan Ludwick is 7-for-42 (.167) with a .275 on-base percentage and a .333 slugging percentage.

And, finally, the playlist:
There’s just a ton of good new music out this year, so today’s playlist is a selection of one track from each of my five favorite albums thus far in 2010 (in order, No. 5 up to No. 1).
Sleigh Bells, “Tell ‘Em” (from “Treats”)
Drive-By Truckers, “Birthday Boy” (from “The Big To-Do”)
The Black Keys, “Sinister Kid” (from “Brothers”)
Gorillaz, “On Melancholy Hill” (from “Plastic Beach”)
Big Boi, “Shine Blockers” (from “Sir Lucious Left Foot”)

-M.

Wednesday lineups

Weather permitting, here are tonight’s lineups:

Cardinals
1. Lopez 3B
2. Jay RF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Rasmus CF
6. Schumaker 2B
7. Molina C
8. Garcia P
9. Ryan SS
Phillies
1. Polanco 3B
2. Victorino CF
3. Francisco LF
4. Howard 1B
5. Werth RF
6. Rollins SS
7. Ransom 2B
8. Ruiz C
9. Blanton P
-M.

Monday lineups

Cardinals
1. Lopez 3B
2. Jay RF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Rasmus CF
5. Craig LF
6. Schumaker 2B
7. Molina C
8. Hawksworth P
9. Ryan SS
Phillies
1. Rollins SS
2. Polanco 3B
3. Ibanez LF
4. Howard 1B
5. Werth RF
6. Victorino CF
7. Ruiz C
8. Valdez 2B
9. Kendrick P
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, July 7

Note of the night, 1: Quite a few things contributed to Evan MacLane pitching in the ninth inning on Wednesday, but one of them was that Dennys Reyes was unavailable due to illness.

TLR said after the game that Reyes might well not have pitched in that situation anyway, but that nonetheless Reyes was ill. Reyes confirmed shortly thereafter that he is dealing with an infection and not feeling well.
He said he’s been dealing with it for a couple of days, and that it’s not necessarily worse today than yesterday. Of course, Reyes pitched yesterday, so it’s not entirely clear what exactly the situation is. 
Note of the night, 2: Going back to last night (so skip this if you so desire), we had the chance to ask TLR this afternoon about a few of the ninth-inning decisions from Tuesday night.
He stood by the decision to play no-doubles with Carlos Gonzalez at the plate. His argument was that since Gonzalez was the tying run, you wanted to make sure that he didn’t get into scoring position. To my mind, it’s still the opposite — even first base is scoring position with Gonzalez on base and Giambi at the plate, and if you get the out, the game ends. But that’s the manager’s stance, and I figured I ought to pass it along.
He also stood by the decision not to remove Franklin, though I got the impression he was less certain of that in retrospect. He was frustrated (and he wasn’t the only one) with the strike zone for Chris Iannetta, feeling that Iannetta should have been struck out before he ever went deep. He essentially argued that for a good bit of that inning, Franklin hadn’t really done that much wrong.
“The only reason I would have gotten him was just the number of pitches and the game was tied. Just to preserve him for tonight.”
I still believe, and he didn’t dismiss this (though he didn’t confirm it, either) that if Motte or McClellan had been available, the hook would have been quicker. Usually when TLR is really convinced that a decision was right, he’s happy to defend it and present his case — as he did with the positioning on Randy Winn. In this case, there was less of a clear argument. I’m not sure he’s sure it was the right move.
Stat of the day: LeBron James has sco Whoops, sorry about that. Matt Holliday has eight extra-base hits in his last eight games. His slugging percentage has climbed from .488 to .527 in those games.
Fun with double situational splits: Albert Pujols is hitting .260 with a .370 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage against right-handers on the road this year.
And, finally, the playlist:
Nina Gordon, “Tonight and the Rest of My Life”
Kings Of Leon, “Slow Night, So Long”
Rolling Stones, “Time Waits For No One”
Tanya Donelly, “World On Fire”
Pearl Jam, “Corduroy”
-M.

Cards close to deal with MacDougal

The Cardinals are close to finalizing a Minor League deal with right-hander Mike MacDougal, a club source confirmed on Wednesday night. A contract is not finalized at this time, pending a physical exam, according to the source, though MacDougal pitched for Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday.

MacDougal, 33, has pitched for the Royals, White Sox and Nationals over nine Major League seasons. He has a 4.09 ERA, 70 saves and 266 strikeouts against 165 walks in 312 2/3 big league innings.
He last pitched in the Majors with Washington in 2009, posting a 3.60 ERA but piling up 31 walks to go along with 31 strikeouts in 50 innings. He spent the first part of this year in the Washington organization, going 4-1 with a 4.71 ERA, 13 Ks and 11 walks in 21 innings between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
MacDougal was an All-Star as a member of the Royals in 2003.
-M.

Ottavino to DL, MacLane recalled

The Cardinals announced on Wednesday afternoon that right-hander Adam Ottavino has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to what the club is calling a “right shoulder strain,” and lefty Evan MacLane has been recalled from Triple-A Memphis.

Ottavino, 24, pitched 3 2/3 innings on Saturday against the Brewers, allowing four runs on nine hits, and had not appeared since. 
MacLane, 27, was briefly up with the Cardinals earlier this season but did not pitch. In 17 starts for Memphis this year, he is 5-7 with a 4.47 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 15 walks in 110 2/3 innings. He is likely to serve as the long man in the Cardinals bullpen for the time being.
-M.

More on The Loss

Just a little free-form musing on tonight’s game. Some of this, I touched on in the game story. Some of it, I hashed out with people on Twitter. Some of it I’ve just thought about and not written anywhere tonight.

Boggs was available: Mitchell Boggs has been pitching really well lately, and he was available, or at least as far as Boggs himself knew, he was available. So while I harped a great deal on the fact that they ran through so many pitchers in the seventh and eighth, they did still have one fallback option for Franklin as things got away.
I think it’s clear that if Motte or McClellan hadn’t already pitched, one of them would have come in sooner. It’s equally clear that Fernando Salas isn’t going to pitch in that situation, nor is Adam Ottavino (if he was, in fact, available).
But Boggs was an option, and maybe a good one. Franklin was getting knocked around, and at some point, even as a courtesy to him, it seems you have to get him out of there.
This is Coors Field: TLR made a point, in response to his first postgame question, to note that games like this happen all over baseball, not just on Planet Coors. But boy are they more likely in Denver.
I got a question on Twitter tonight about whether he “managed desperately,” and some people raised the issue of why all of the best relievers were pitching in a four- and then seven-run game. The answer, in short, is that this is Coors Field. That’s how most managers manage here .You treat a four-run lead in Denver like a one- or two-run lead in some parks.
That showed when Franklin came in as early as he did. TLR knew this game was dangerous long before Franklin blew up. 
The bullpen is not the problem: The most consistently effective, reliable unit of the 2010 Cardinals has been the bullpen. They’ve stayed healthy. They’ve been good. They’ve held leads. Tonight’s debacle did serious damage to the bullpen ERA, but before this game, it was second-best in the NL, behind only the Padres. They still have the fewest blown saves in the lead.
I figured the relief corps as an area of concern coming into the year. But the lefties have been solid, Franklin has been almost exclusively very good, McClellan is enjoying another good year and Motte and Boggs have emerged very nicely. The bullpen doesn’t need to be blown up. It just needs not to have more nights like Tuesday.
About that Carlos Gonzalez single: I remain puzzled, and will ask tomorrow afternoon, about Randy Winn’s positioning on Carlos Gonzalez’s single. With two outs and a runner on third, and the Cardinals leading by two runs, Winn was playing extremely deep — almost at the warning track.
Gonzalez hit a flyball to fairly medium depth, and it dropped in front of Winn, scoring the eighth run.
To my mind, the biggest difference there is the difference between the out and a hit, not the difference between a single and a double. If, say, the tying or go-ahead run is on first, then sure, you want to avoid the extra-base hit. But Gonzalez himself was the tying run, in front of a power hitter in Jason Giambi. He’s also fast. So he’s essentially in scoring position if he gets on base at all.
So what you have to worry about, to me, is whether Gonzalez gets on base at all. You have to play for the out, even if it means risking extra bases. Or so it seems to me.
And, finally, a plea: Be grownups, please. I know this was an incredibly frustrating loss. The worst of the year. But this is not a message board. It’s a place where courtesy matters. Be good to each other. Spare the name-calling and the venom. You have questions? Ask ‘em. You have second-guesses? Fire away. You have concerns? Air ‘em. But please, be mature, be respectful about it. Thanks much.
-M.

Penny cuts throw short

Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny encountered a setback on Tuesday in his rehabilitation from a strained right lat muscle.
As Penny was about to begin facing hitters for the first time since he went on the disabled list, he experienced discomfort near the area of the original injury and shut down the throw. He left Coors Field shortly thereafter and will return to St. Louis to be examined by the Cardinals’ medical staff.
“It’s a big negative,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Penny had been on track to make a Minor League rehabilitation start on Sunday if Tuesday’s throw had gone well.
-M.

Ludwick to DL, Greene up, Salas down

he Cardinals made one move and announced another on Friday afternoon.
The club recalled infielder Tyler Greene from Triple-A Memphis and optioned reliever Fernando Salas to Memphis, getting back to the preferred ratio of 13 position players and 12 pitchers. More importantly, though, manager Tony La Russa told reporters that outfielder Ryan Ludwick has encountered a setback in his recovery from a right calf strain, and Ludwick will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Ludwick likely will not officially be placed on the DL until Saturday, because the Cardinals were not able to get a player to St. Louis in time to take his place. La Russa said that Ludwick was jogging on a treadmill as part of his rehabilitation when he aggravated the injury.
The move will be retroactive to Saturday. Ludwick last played one week ago, on June 25 in Kansas City. He first suffered the injury on June 22 in Toronto. He would be eligible to come off the DL on July 11, the last day before the All-Star break.
La Russa said that the Cardinals will most likely call up an outfielder to take Ludwick’s place on the roster. The leading candidates for a promotion would be Jon Jay, Allen Craig and Joe Mather, all of whom have played for the big league club this year.
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