I missed a lot of last night's game, since our TV was on the local weather instead of more enjoyable pursuits. (For the record, lot of time spent huddled in the safe area and according to some pictures, there were some ugly clouds right around our place, but no damage done.) I did get to see the end of the game, though, and experience the high of the comeback and the low of the blown save.
All that aside, I said yesterday that this series and, in particular, last night's game was a good test to see how different the 2011 team was from the 2010 version. Last year, the team would have never shown up and perhaps mustered a run or so against Bud Norris. Instead, they took the lead, then even rallied back after losing it.
First of all, you have to say last night's hero was Daniel Descalso. Not only did he have three hits, but they all went for extra bases. A two-run triple in the third and then a run-scoring double in the eighth that tied up the game. I've mentioned before that I'd like to see Descalso make it so that there's a discussion when Skip Schumakercomes back on who should play, and more games like that will do it.
It was also nice to see Lance Berkmando well in his return to Houston. He should have had the game winning hit (though Carlos Lee looked foolish trying to make that catch) and for the most part got a nice reception from the crowd, if not the local radio voice. (Speaking of, I can't imagine John Rooney or Mike Shannon saying things like that, but I can well imagine Marty Brennaman doing it!)
Also, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molinahad two hits, as the offense wasn't really the problem last night, though the scoring efficiency number was 3.00, which is on the high side of things. However, when you score five runs with this pitching staff, that should be enough. (By the way, if you are curious the Cards' season SE mark is now at 2.63, well down from when I wrote that original post.)
Unfortunately, for the fifth time this season, the Cards blew a ninth inning lead. This time, the goat was Mitchell Boggsinstead of Ryan Franklin, but it didn't make it any more palatable. It might be one thing if Boggs had not gotten a close call to walk a guy then gave up a double on a good pitch. Instead, Boggs had a complete implosion.
Boggs came in with a fresh slate and a one run lead, a lead the Cards had just acquired. He immediately gives up a base hit, which isn't huge. You can get around that. The problem really started when he apparently crossed up Yadier Molina, whose passed ball allowed the runner to go to second, then mishandled Michael Bourn's bunt (which everyone knew was coming, so it wasn't a surprise) and both runners were safe at the corners. According to FanGraphs, at that moment the Win Probability for the Astros went from 41.9% to 64.4%. That was before Boggs uncorked the wild pitch, which tied the game.
Now, I've got to say, Bourn did his darnest to make sure the Astros didn't win this game, and for a while there I thought it was going to work. You've got the fastest guy on their team, but he doesn't go to second on the wild pitch. He doesn't go to third on the next hit. He doesn't go home on a base hit to the outfield, even though there were no outs and, at worst, he's thrown out and there are two on with one out. Instead, he goes station to station and, when Carlos Lee popped up for the first out, I was almost expecting Bill Hall to ground into a double play and get Boggs out of it. Instead, Hall hit it to short, but with the infield in (and that's a question as well, why weren't the middle infielders back for the double play?) it got past and won the ball game.
However, Boggs wasn't the only one with a disappointing outing in this one. It turned out not to affect the scoring, but for the third straight outing,Trever Miller has come into the game as a LOOGY and missed the most important part of that description--the one-out part. A week ago Sunday, he allowed the double to Andre Ethier before Matt Kemp took Ryan Franklin deep. Saturday, he walked Jay Bruce, forcing in the tying run. Last night, he gave up a single to Brett Wallace to lead off the eighth in a tie game. The runner got erased when Molina did his patented pickoff of first move and Jason Motte did a fine job with the rest of the inning, but still, you've got to be getting these guys out if you are Miller.
I missed most of his time in the game, but apparently it wasn't one of Jaime Garcia's best nights either. He didn't get out of the sixth and was charged with four runs (three earned) in that time. He struck out six and was only at around 90 pitches, so it wasn't a disaster, especially since two of those runs scored after he was out of the game. Another David Freese error played into his demise, just another indication that the Cardinal defense is not what it used to be.
Miguel Batista came into a tough situation, with bases loaded and one out, but he allowed a two-run single before getting the next two batters. If you go by leverage and all those type of situations, that probably was the time to bring in Eduardo Sanchez or Fernando Salas to get the strikeout. Batista, well, his appearances are usually just good for a poem. At least he couldn't stop the game with rain last night.
Albert Pujols sat out most of last night's game nursing that hamstring, but then pinch-hit in a strange situation. After Desclaso's double had tied up the game, he was at second with two outs when Tony La Russa sent up Pujols. Now, everyone in the stadium knew that Pujols was going to get walked. There was nothing that he could do to help the team in that situation. Sure, it got Colby Rasmus to the plate, but with two outs it also set up a force at any base.
While Tyler Greene is no great shakes as a hitter, I'd have just about rather seen him try to get a hit (and drive in Descalso) while saving Pujols for a better situation than wasting him in that situation. You had Holliday and Berkman coming up in the ninth, but if it came down to it you could have used Pujols in Freese's spot or kept him for the 10th. Albert did stay in the game, which means that if extras had rolled around he'd have still been in there, but I thought that was a pretty curious decision by the manager.
Cards have to shake that one off and go at it again tonight. Here's what tonight's starter, Kyle Lohse, has done against theAstros:
Historically, this team has been able to get to Lohse. You look especially at Hunter Pence, who probably hasn't faced a healthy Lohse, and Carlos Lee. This may be a good test to see if his health and new confidence will continue.
J.A. Happ goes for the 'Stros. Here's what he's done versus the Redbirds:
Pujols has had some success against him and I believe will be back in the lineup tonight. Other than that, not a lot of sample size, but most of it is positive for the Cards. It's been a while since they lost a series, so hopefully they'll get a win tonight and keep that alive.
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ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball