Game 117 – These Aren’t Your Daddy’s Cardinals

Headclouds

Before Zach Duke pitched Friday night he sported a career 5.54 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP against the Cardinals.

He won the game scattering 8 hits and 1 run – a tainted run at that.

Ian Snell came into tonight’s game with a career 6.00 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP against the Cardinals.

Ian won his game tonight too throwing a 5-hitter over 7 innings and allowing just 2 untainted earned runs.

So far in this series, the young Pirate staff has limited the Cardinals to just 3 runs on 13 hits for a .210 batting average.

These simply aren’t your daddy’s Cardinals.

Look on the field.. when was the last time you saw a Tony LaRussa position player sporting red facial hair.. or a pitcher throwing with a dangling chain like some pimp from the southside.. or relievers sitting down in the pen without a baseball in their hands.. or pitchers arguing balls and strikes from the mound with the home plate umpire?

Discipline is gone in St. Louis and I suspect the clubhouse karma is gone with it. Certainly the team’s heartbeat on the field is gone. They are absolutely stone cold in every department.

Good.

I like seeing LaRussa pace the dugout.. I like to see the sweat roll down his brows as he looked up at the scoreboard and saw that the Reds won today and knowing the Astros have won 4 of their last 5.

There is nothing – and I mean *nothing* – more fun than humiliating LaRussa. And, think about it.. if they can’t beat two rookie pitchers in Duke and Snell, how in the world do they think they will ever beat a Contreras or a Santana?

GO REDS!  This is great stuff.

Snell did his job tonight – he threw strikes and Lady Luck continued to follow Ian as balls in play were hammered right at our defenders for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, it took a lot of excellent defense by Freddy at 2B (and I do mean a lot), good hands by Jack at SS, and a nice play by Duffy to keep this game in order as the Cardinals could have run away with it many times.. only to be thwarted by our defense (yep, I said our defense, if you can believe that).

The two runs off Snell started with a 2-out walk Ian gave up to Duncan in the 5th. On a 3-2 count, Snell threw an off speed pitch that bounced allowing the walk with Pujols on deck. It was the biggest mistake of the night for Snell as AP walked into the batters box hunting a heater, got one right down the pike above the knees, and promptly delivered it into the left field bleachers. Why Snell threw an off speed pitch on a 3-2 count with Pujols on deck is a mystery.. but it was a bad call.

The Cardinals only threatened Snell twice outside of Pujols’ bomb. In the first inning, Snell gave up a double to Duncan with one out and then intentionally walked Pujols (I loved that call by Tracy, btw). Snell then got Edmonds and Spiezio to K to end the threat.

In the third inning, Edmonds hit a sharp ground ball toward the 2B bag with fast running Eckstein on 2B. Sanchez showed Castillo-like range getting to the ball, fielded it, and got right to his feet to prohibit Eckstein from scoring. That play saved a run and turned out to be the difference maker of the night.

Offensively, the Pirates continued their merry ways seeing watermelons thrown from pitchers as they only had a 13.9% called strike rate.

Chris Duffy, finally adhering to Jim Tracy’s desire that he start pounding the ball on the ground, took advantage of Nate McLouth’s injury pine time by going 3-5 with 2 runs scored. Two of Duff’s three hits were on the ground and on one of his outs he was robbed by 6′ 5" Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver who jumped high in the air to get a chopped ball over his head that would have been a hit with almost any other pitcher on the mound.

But tonight was Freddy Sanchez night. Freddy not only saved the game with his glove in the 3rd (btw, Freddy is using a 3B glove playing 2B I saw tonight) his bat was also alive as he went 3-4 including a single in the 6th inning that loaded the bases for Bay’s sac fly to score the eventual winning run.

The Pirates have now stranded 22 men in the series compared to just 11 for the Cardinals, so the bats remain hot. It will be interesting to see how we do tomorrow against intimidation pitcher Jason Marquis who loves to bean Pirate batters, especially with the Buccos pounding the ball the way they are. It will be up to Maholm to respond and I’m not so sure he will unless ordered to do so from the dugout. The home plate umpire will be Brian Gorman.

Remember now, Brain Gorman was the home plate ump in that June 2004 game at PNC when LaRussa and McClendon went at it after LaRussa called out Jason Kendall from the dugout after Mike Gonzalez threw high and inside to Tony Womack forcing Womack to hit the dirt. McClendon took offense to LaRussa yelling at one of his players – as he should – and immediately ran from the dugout into LaRussa’s face. Gorman stood between the two managers as they shouted it out and then ejected them both.

Two days before that game, Rolen was beaned in the head by Ryan Vogelsong on a pitch that got away and Rolen said after the game he didn’t think it was done intentionally, despite the fact he suffered a concussion. Vogelsong said after the game something to the effect of ‘Me bean Rolen on purpose? Are you crazy?’ LoL

When Gonzalez threw the high heat to Womack with 2 outs in the 9th inning, he admitted he did it because the Cardinals dugout was trying to intimidate him because he had pitched mostly inside to the batters he faced. Womack said he understood why he was almost hit but he was very upset that it was near his head, and that it wasn’t done on the first pitch (as is customary). It’s one thing to play bean ball and quite another to play head ping, as they say.

Gorman also tossed LaRussa in AZ in 2003 when LaRussa ordered Fassero to hit Luis Gonzalez with a pitch with 2 outs in the 9th inning (sound familiar?).

Gorman is also well known for tossing Mark Buehrle last August when Buehrle had a streak of 49 games going where he had pitched 6 innings or more snapped when Gorman felt he had intentionally thrown at B.J. Surhoff.

Another thing to watch tomorrow is how Ronny Paulino handles Gorman’s game calling mechanics because Gorman is well known for putting his hands all over catchers. There have been times when catchers have said Gorman actually held them down with his body weight and they couldn’t shift to get block balls in the dirt. As an ex-catcher, I always hated that type of ump as it really distracted me from the game. 

Some other interesting fast facts about Gorman — in last 5 games he has called balls and strikes, the home team has lost every one; Marquis has won his last two starts with Gorman behind the plate; the Pirates have won 4 of their last 7 home games with Gorman behind the plate; and Gorman calls a compact zone so expect a few home runs as pitchers are going to have to be nearer to the batters sweet spot to get strikes.

— Tidbits —

You have to wonder if Tracy and Littlefield are going to consider moving Jose Castillo to 3B here real soon, especially the way Sanchez has taken over at 2B. The Pirates believe Castillo’s weight has become a problem for him at 2B and I have to believe they are questioning Bautista’s ability to play 3B defensively any better than Wiggy did. So don’t be too surprised if you see Jose moved there shortly.

Ron Chiavacci evidently enjoyed his demotion to AA so much that in his first start since returning to Indy today he threw his first career 9 inning complete game shutout allowing just 5 hits. Chiavacci had thrown a 7 inning complete game shutout in A ball. That’s quite an amazing feat for a guy who hadn’t lasted longer than 4 and 1/3rd innings in his previous four AAA starts. Don’t start licking your chops though.. hehe

John Van Benschoten has joined the Altoona Curve and will make his next start on the road Monday against the Connecticut Defenders who are a sub-.500 team but been playing some good baseball lately.

Ryan Doumit has been sent all the way back to Bradenton to start his rehab assignment next week. LoL Poor Ryan.. I guess Littlefield just doesn’t want him around until the last week of September.. if then. Look for Doumit to be shopped this winter.

Victor Santos takes the mound in tomorrow’s day game contest replacing the newly acquired, and injured, Kris Benson wannabe Shawn Chacon. With Gorman behind the plate, Santos on the mound, and the Pirates having taken 2 of 3 from the Cardinals, look for Santos to wake up the Cardinal’s bats and it be a lonnnggg day for the Pirates. Prove me wrong Victor.. a swe….p would be very nice.

On that note I will mention that I will be returning from my trip late Sunday and might not be posting here again until after Monday’s game.

I’ll leave you on a fun note.. go to http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/story/2006/8/12/214025/176#commenttop and read the comments Cardinal fans are making about their team losing to the Pirates. Hilarious stuff..

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