NLDS GAME 3: Wasted Chances Ray October 4, 2011 Game Recap A fabulous, commanding start by the always-mercurial Jaime Garcia was completely wasted by an inept, inconsistent offense and TLR’s bottomless managerial stupidity. The Cardinals fell 3-2 to the Phillies, and are now on the verge of being kicked out of the playoffs altogether. With their backs against the wall, can they cheat death one more time? CHERRY GARCIA: For six innings, Jaime Garcia was as good as he’s been all year. He held the Phillies to three hits in those six innings, and was only threatened at all in the third. Unfortunately, Garcia was forced to walk a tightrope throughout the game because his offense was busy squandering scoring opportunities. With the pressure building, Garcia came unglued in the seventh after only 80 pitches thanks to a passed ball and a ridiculous “strategic” maneuver by the frowny-faced genius/gremlin in the sunglasses (see below). Garcia gave us the exact start we all hoped to see tonight, and the team blew it. DOUBLE TROUBLE: I really love the increased aggressiveness on the bases; it’s not surprising that the use of the running game has coincided with our best winning streak of the year. However, must we use out slowest players to do that? Try to stifle a heart attack when you see Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols take off like they did in the first. The thefts were successful, but still pretty scary, too. MANG AND RIOT: It’s really hard to do much more than Albert Pujols and Ryan Theriot did tonight in support of Garcia. Each had four hits, including three doubles by Pujols. The only thing these two didn’t do to try and get a win is give complimentary handjobs to the umpires (although Theriot had a gleam in his eye). Too bad these two weren’t closer together in the lineup considering … POWER OUTAGE: You’re not going to win many ballgames when you strand 14 runners. Lance Berkman and David Freese stranded EIGHT all by themselves. Freese in particular had an awful night, striking out three times against starter Cole Hamels (he’s now a deadly 2-12 in this series) and absolutely annihilating a first inning rally with runners at second and third. Brutal. TLR IS AN IDIOT (PART 217): There has been much arguing tonight over who deserves the blame for the seventh inning meltdown that led to three Philadelphia runs. Yadier Molina‘s passed ball with Shane Victorino on first was a definite problem. Garcia giving up the three-run homer to Ben Francisco wasn’t too hot, either. But the real culprit is TLR’s fateful (and I do mean fateful, as in he cannot help but do these types of things) decision to intentionally walk catcher Carlos Ruiz ahead of Francisco with two outs. WHY DO THIS?? Managers intentionally put a runner on first when they need a double play … BUT THERE WERE TWO OUTS! Walking Ruiz doesn’t force manager Phillies Charlie Manuel to pinch hit for Hamels, either – Hamels was already at 115 pitches and was coming out anyway. Besides, Ruiz was batting a paltry .100 in this series!! The only thing this little bit of “strategy” did was put a bad-hitting, slow-running catcher on first base so he could leisurely jog home on a home run. TLR GAVE THEM THAT RUN, which happened to be the winning run!! TAKE A PITCH: The Cards were hacking away all night like a lumberjack getting paid by the swing. This led to a bunch of terrible at bats, usually with runners on base. The worst at bat was Yadier Molina’s in the sixth. He worked the count to 3-0 against Hamels, then swung at the fourth pitch (an obvious ball four) and then proceeded to strike out. AMATEURISH. It really didn’t help that the next two batters reached base after him. However it wasn’t only Yadi having bad at bats; you won’t see more first-pitch swinging in a blind tee-ball tournament. THE BIGGEST WASTE: It’s almost unfathomable that anyone still feels that this team can win everything when it loads the bases in the eighth inning and one out and Allen Craig hits into a double play to end the inning. Even a STRIKEOUT would be better in that situation. Pennant winning teams must convert those kinds of opportunities. SHOE MAN: I was glad to see the Cardinals play the final two innings with some heart and integrity. The best effort I saw in those two innings was the diving catch by Skip Schumaker (who was just put out there in the previous inning), as well as his passionate argument when the umpire called it a trapped ball. Seeing Schumaker sprint all the way from the outfield to scream at the umpire really set Busch Stadium alight. Too bad it wouldn’t last. PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Garcia, Pujols, and Theriot. They gave us superb performances that were unmatched by the rest of a listless and unfocused team. GOAT: Fucking TLR, of course. Freese is a close second. CRYING IS NOT ALLOWED IN BASEBALL: After the game, Berkman and Pujols went on the air to complain about the afternoon shadows crossing the field (again). They bitch about this topic more than Elton John about AIDS at a benefit concert. You’d think shadows across the outfield was the world’s leading cause of cancer. I’m going to start wearing a black ribbon in support of eradicating shadows from this world so that billionaire ballplayers can play their game without hindrance! By the way, it should be noted that the Phillies had no complaints whatsoever, and seemed to have more problems hitting than the Cards did. But they won, so I guess that helps soothe the ache caused by shadows in the outfield. CONCLUSION: Every time I start to discount this team they surprise me, so I’ll refrain from playing Taps just yet. However, I will say that the constant flirting with complete collapse will be their undoing. At some point a winning team plays a consistent game from day to day, and this team is anything but consistent. Hopefully Edwin Jackson can throw a no-hitter tomorrow.