GAME 22: Running Out Of Luck
Jaime Garcia bungled his way through a start irritatingly-reminiscent of inconsistent past performances. Meanwhile, the offense left a whopping 13 runners on base and eventually ran themselves out of the game as the Cardinals (14-8) clumsily dropped the final game 3-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers.
OLD IS NEW: Although the line score isn’t bad, this was a regressive start for Garcia. Nine hits and three runs in seven innings isn’t going to cut it on most nights. Even more frustrating was Garcia’s inability to throw quality pitches in key moments, like when he grooved a cantaloupe-sized fastball to Jonathan Lucroy that was ripped for a two-run double. Little nagging problems prevent Jaime from really rising to elite status in this game.
FUNDAMENTALS: Speaking of frustrating, what was going through Garcia’s mind when he took off from third on Matt Holliday‘s potential sacrifice fly? Garcia took off for home instead of tagging up, and was then forced to scramble back to third. The Cardinals failed to score in the inning thanks to a mistake many Little League players understand.
BACK TO LIFE: It was great seeing Rafael Furcal getting some hits today; he had been mired in a 0-17 slump before his 2-4 day today. And, as usual, the pesky shortstop helped generate offense.
ROOKIE MISTAKE: The Cardinals entered the ninth down 3-2 and the heart of the order coming up. Matt Holliday led off the inning with a walk, and Matheny replaced Holliday with Tyler Greene. Carlos Beltran followed with a single, with Greene moving to third. First and third and nobody out – we have this game already won, right? After David Freese struck out, Matheny has Beltran break for second with Yadier Molina protecting the runner by swinging. The idea here is that Beltran would try to induce a throw to second, allowing Greene a chance to swipe home and tie the game.
A few problems with that idea. If it was a full-fledged hit and run, it was an awful count on which to try it; Molina had an 0-2 count, and Brewers closer John Axford was unlikely to throw a hittable pitch there; protecting the runner in that situation would’ve been extremely difficult.
If Matheny wanted Beltran to bluff toward second and not attempt a steal (which is what happened), it’s still a bad count because you run the risk of a strikeout of Molina and a pick off at second.
Regardless, you hate to try anything like that in that situation when so many other types of plays could score the tying run: a fly ball, a grounder through the infield, or even a squeeze play. A play like Matheny’s only opens the door for human error, which it eventually did. And the biggest error falls on Matheny.
CHOPPING BLOCK: Regardless of the tactical error behind Matheny’s plan, Tyler Greene flubbed it all up with his clueless base running at third on the play. He looked like a frightened deer lost on a busy highway, jumping back and forth like he had never played the game before. If that is the play, then as soon as the catcher releases the ball, Greene needed to scramble down the line like Jackie Joyner Kersee with a torch in her ass. Instead, Greene stumbled around like a lobotomy patient deciding ice cream flavors at Ted Drewes. Fifteen minutes later when Greene decided to run home, the Brewers threw him out easily to end the game. Hate to say it, but that’s the end of Greene in a Cardinal uniform.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Furcal the spark plug.
CONCLUSION: Serious problems with execution doomed this game. The base running is especially troubling given Matheny’s penchant for aggressiveness on the bases. Everybody needs to get on the same page with this. Well, except for Greene, who will never be seen at Busch again.