GAME 32: Tony’s Tenacity
In his tribute to Tony La Russa, Adam Wainwright said that TLR taught them tenacity. The Cardinals turned around and showed that, battling the Atlanta Braves into the twelfth inning before finally losing 9-7 before a packed house of fans and dignitaries at Busch Stadium.
PAYING TRIBUTE: Prior to tonight’s game, the Cardinals held a special ceremony to retire the number of former manager Tony La Russa. Many Hall of Famers were there (no Ozzie Smith, though – get over it, Wizard!), as well as former Cardinal stars like Dave Duncan, Jim Edmonds, and Mark McGwire. Love him or hate him, there is no disputing that La Russa presided over the most charismatic and successful eras in Cardinal history. He belongs on the outfield wall, and immortalized in bronze. Congratulations, TLR!
CLASS: In a very nice move, Cardinal fans paid tribute to the career of Chipper Jones with a standing ovation in the first. A classy move for a classy player.
DISTRACTED: Things unraveled about three minutes after La Russa left the field. Jaime Garcia, our marginally-insane lefty, put the Cardinals in a hole by surrendering two walks and a hit to load the bases. Then Yadier Molina, still recovering from a hand injury, allowed two passed balls for two runs while moving like he’s underwater. Just the kind of sloppy play that would’ve driven TLR insane back in the day – nice tribute, guys!
EXCUSES, EXCUSES: Garcia wasn’t good tonight – 5.2 innings, nine hits, two walks, and four earned runs. During the awful third inning in which Garcia gave up three runs on four hits and a passed ball, the broadcasters hypothesized that Garcia was struggling because the game was delayed for a few minutes in order to pay tribute to TLR. Here’s the truth: if Garcia’s game was rattled that badly by a ten minute delay in the start of the game, then he needs to quit baseball, go back to Mexico, and find his mother’s teet. Garcia has well-groomed pubic hair and he’s being paid $6MM a year - ACT LIKE A MAN. I’m sick of the coddling and excuse-making for Garcia. It’s time to grow up or go home.
REPEAT PERFORMANCE: The Cardinals looked pretty limp against Mike Minor, behind 5-1 going into the fourth. Then the Cardinals flexed more of their league-leading power. Carlos Beltran powdered a Minor pitch, launching it directly into Big Mac Land in the second deck; easily the longest homer of the season, if not the last few. Allen Craig stepped up next and smacked an opposite field home run into the home bullpen. One can’t help but imagine TLR sitting in the stands salivating over this Cardinals team, one that seems like exactly the kind of team he always wanted.
HOMBRE DE VERDAD: I hope Carlos Beltran is prepared for this next phase of his life, as he is quickly becoming a legend in baseball’s best town. He followed up his epic home run in the fourth with a fifth inning triple off of the top of the wall in center to score both Matt Holliday and Jon Jay and put the Cardinals ahead 6-5 at the time. Unlike the fans Beltran has known throughout his career in Houston and New York, Cardinal Nation will never forget what he’s doing here. After so many years of searching, I think Beltran has finally found his home.
TRENDS: Marc Rzepczynski has thrown ten innings of relief this year. He’s given up two home runs. I’m no TLR, but that seems to be an undesirable statistic for a lefty specialist. Even worse, Zeppo gave up the home run to Dan Uggla in the top of the seventh, moments after Beltran had given the Cardinals the lead with his inspirational hit. Zeppo took the life out of the stadium. Obviously, he needs to get the ball down more, but I’ve also noticed that he has less side-to-side action on his pitches than last year. Maybe he’s doing too much partying and not enough baseball practice.
CURTAIN CALL: With the Cardinals down 7-6 in the eighth, Beltran stepped up and launched another home to tie the game and eventually send it into extra innings. He would add a double later in the game as well. If you’re keeping score, that ended up a 4-5 night with 4 RBI and (gulp!) THIRTEEN total bases. A roaring crowd of appreciative fans forced Beltran out of the dugout for a well-deserved curtain call. AMAZING.
LOGICAL DEDUCTION: If you load the bases in the tenth and eleventh innings of a tie game and cannot score even one run, you deserve to lose the game. The tenth was particularly awful, as the Cards had the bases loaded and just one out for David Freese. Almost anything wins it here, except for the double play. Wanna guess what happened? I have no idea why Matheny didn’t play more aggressively in this spot.
ENDPOINT: Kyle McClellan is finally reaching the last stages of his career in St. Louis. He’s talented, but his bouts of muscle weakness, pouting, and lack of command are reaching critical stages. He has an ERA of 4.24 (down considerably from the start of the season) with two home runs allowed and FIVE WALKS in 13 innings in relief. Matheny put him into the game at the right moment, asking K-Mac to hold the Braves in the twelfth inning. However, K-Mac walked Chipper Jones and then promptly coughed up a homer to Jason Heyward. END OF GAME.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Beltran, Beltran, Beltran. Wow … what a night.
CONCLUSION: It was a beautiful night for many reasons. The honoring of TLR was tasteful, and gave the evening a sense of purpose. The Cardinals’ offense battled all night to win. However, the relief pitching continues to baffle and mildly disappoint. Is Eduardo Sanchez ready yet?