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October 25, 2006

World Series Prospectus

The Most Impressive Carpenter Since You Know Who

by Kevin Goldstein

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7:05 pm: That's right, my time zone is the World Series time zone--none of that East Coast/West Coast bias here, even if I am a little late after making dinner and watching Jeopardy! For the record, it was the 137th straight episode in which I proclaimed to the room that I would have won had I been there playing. The room consists of my girlfriend Margaret, a dog, and two cats. None of them buy it, even if I went a perfect 10 for 10 in Classic Rock Lyrics and Saudi Arabia.

7:11 pm: Home run to left = free taco. According to YellowPages.com, the nearest Taco Bell to me is only 2.5 miles away! My late night plans are set!

7:14 pm: Steven Goldman chimes in to tell me he has a theory about Joe Girardi that is also his theory of the Green Goblin. I refuse to pursue it.

7:18 pm: As the starting lineups get announced and run onto the field, I start to wonder about who is going to sing the national anthem. St. Louis isn't nearly the musical town that Detroit is. Not even close. Even if it was, I still predict a lame choice, as this is Major League Baseball.

7:20 pm: Nice free advertisement with the Cards getting introduced to the Budweiser theme song. I know I ripped this in the NLCS Game Seven diary, but seriously, why does Preston Wilson bat second... ever? So Taguchi eighth, and Wilson second? I don't get that, but then I do believe that batting orders matter.

7:22 pm: Country music "superstar" Trace Adkins! I'm now a perfect 1-for-1 in predictions! While I'm on a roll, I'm taking the Tigers in this game because of the Cardinals' inability to hit lefthanders and the fact that Chris Carpenter has thrown something close the 3,000 innings in the past two seasons. OK, I guess the guy could sing. But still...lame.

7:35 pm: I miss the first pitch of the game as my girlfriend shows me something in a catalog called "Rumba Panties." I declare these to be one of the finest trends of the season, stare at them some more, and next thing I know Granderson whiffs on a big-breaking curveball.

7:39 pm: An uneventful top of the first ends with a Monroe fly out and a Polanco ground out.

7:42 pm: One of those underrated defensive plays by Rodriguez there. Not a lot of catchers can pop out of the crouch like he does as he snags Eckstein's bunt before it goes foul for the moderately rare 2-3 putout. Buck explains that Wilson is batting second because he's 5-for-5 lifetime against Robertson and Tony is playing a hunch. The perfect streak is over as Wilson lines out. Pujols grounds out and both pitchers are on early.

7:50 pm: The top of the second inning takes about 56 seconds total (fly ball, ground ball x 2), and Carpenter is cruising. We've yet to have a baserunner as Goldman and I debate the possibility of a woman reaching the majors. I think one could make it as a knuckleballer, Steven is more open to other possibilities.

7:58 pm: Edmonds draws a two-out walk for the game's first baserunner. Robertson's command is a little off, but he's throwing hard. After two fastballs outside the strike zone to Molina, Pudge comes out for a quick visit. The at-bat turns into a battle that finally ends with a lineout to left. Both pitchers are seemingly on, and this one could move quickly. Carpenter has thrown just 15 pitches in the first two innings, but after the Molina battle, Robertson is up to 34.

8:09 pm: Brandon Inge punches a one-out single, Robertson bunts him over, and we have our first stressful moment of the game. The first pitch from Carpenter is wild, and Inge moves over to third. The next pitch is in almost exactly the same place, and Molina does a much better job of blocking the ball, saving a run as Granderson grounds out to end the inning and extend his World Series slump to 0-for-11. Carpenter's curve is almost breaking too much to control, which is better than the opposite, as his cutter is working extraordinarily well. Through three innings, he's thrown 35 pitches.

8:17 pm: Much of my in-between activity is looking at the new CBA. From what I can tell, the draft-and-follow system is dead, as is any possibility of protracted negotiations with picks. This deserves a full piece, and will get one soon. Robertson retires the 8-9-1 hitters in quick order and the first three innings have flown by with very little to talk about, really.

8:20 pm: Rumba panties.

8:25 pm: Carpenter whiffs Monroe, and we have a very nice high-speed angle from the side that shows Carpenter's mechanics and the break of the pitch. Has this replaced the ant's view cam from in front of the plate? I sure hope so. In my wildest dreams, the Cardinals refused to install it, thus making them my new pretend heroes. The Tigers continue to hack away, with Polanco going out 6-3 and Ordonez flying out to moderately deep right, giving Carpenter a 4 1 0 0 0 2 line with just 36 pitches. Seriously, guys. Take a pitch or two. It'll be good for ya.

8:30 pm: Preston Wilson singles, because he's an ideal number two hitter, and Albert Pujols comes up with a runner on base in what seems like the first time in a week. Pujols reaches for an outside fastball and slices a ground rule double down the right field line. Second and third with nobody out--the way Carpenter is pitching (and the Tigers are hitting), one or two runs could be all they need.

8:32 pm: Robertson starts off 2-0 on Rolen, so Leyland makes a visit. It doesn't work and Rolen walks on four pitches to load the bases with nobody out. Robertson's command has seemingly gone backwards in every inning, and it looks like he'll pay for it here...

8:36 pm: ...or not. Belliard grounds out to Inge for the 5-2 force out and now it's still bases-loaded for Edmonds. For lack of a better term, the double-play is in play.

8:39 pm: Edmonds rips a double down the right field line and the Cardinals are up 2-0. That's really all Carpenter is going to need the way he's pitching. Molina gets a free pass (there's a phrase I thought I'd never write), bringing up Taguchi with the bases loaded again. Taguchi pops out as Jim Edmonds massages Polanco's shoulders at second base. I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have happened in the 1930s. A career .095 hitter, Carpenter does what he's supposed to do (make an out), and the Tigers are lucky to get out of this with just two runs crossing the plate.

8:43 pm: During the break, I had to walk away and help my girlfriend defeat a boss on Rule of Rose for the PS2. She may not like baseball, but she likes video games--so I don't complain.

8:48 pm: This Taco Bell promotion is a huge hit even without the home runs, as they've been talking about tacos for about three minutes now. Carpenter gives up a meaningless single to Casey, strikes out Inge to end the fifth, and he's at fifty pitches through five innings.

8:58 pm: Eckstein leads off the bottom of the fifth with a single as Robertson continues to scuffle. Somehow Eckstein has gone three at-bats without anyone mentioning how gritty or gutsy he is. Wilson whiffs. Have I mentioned yet that he shouldn't be batting second?

9:01 pm: According to Tim McCarver, "when Pujols is the batter, it's not a plate, it's a platter." I'm pretty sure that's somewhere on the most recent Jay-Z album. Pujols pops out, which proves to be a huge out as Rolen singles to make it first and second with two outs. Belliard whiffs to end the threat and Robertson is done for the night as he's due to leadoff the sixth. At 5 5 2 2 3 2, his line is anything but impressive, but he pitched his way out of some jams in the last couple of innings, and if the Tigers can come back here, the story could be missed opportunities by the Cardinals.

9:09 pm: Early postseason hero Alexis Gomez pinch-hits for Robertson to lead off the sixth. He grounds out on a pitch that breaks his bat, and I'm now more convinced that the two runs will be enough. Granderson whiffs, Monroe grounds out, and Carpenter stays on his ten pitch-per-inning pace, sitting at 60 pitches, 40 of them strikes.

9:17 pm: Leyland sticks with the lefty thing by sending out Ledezma for the bottom of the sixth. When Ledezma is on, he's nasty as hell, and it sure looks like he's on as he strikes out Edmonds and makes him look foolish in the process. Molina then rips a double the other way--he's quickly becoming the Pat Borders of the 2006 postseason. Ledezma leaves the game and it's Zumaya time.

9:26 pm: Does Fox not have a radar gun on? Are they afraid that Zumaya will hit 108 on their gun and prove it's juiced? We're told he hits 99 mph, and then he whiffs Taguchi with a slider that's just not fair. Carpenter flies out and we go to the seventh with it still 2-0, but the way Carpenter is pitching, it almost feels like a blowout. Mr. Goldman notes that the meat of the Tigers order is coming up, and this could be the do or die frame.

9:33 pm: Joe Buck announces that the taco promotion has been expanded to where any home run, not just one to left field, gets us free food, before realizing that "something might be wrong with Carpenter." An extended Cardinals posse looks at his right thumb, but Carpenter stays in the game. According to Chris Myers, who gets some quick info, Carpenter has "a thumb sprain, a sprained thumb." Ordonez flies out on a nice play by Taguchi; meanwhile, to give some love to McCarver, he points out that Carpenter has yet to throw a curveball since the thumb sprain/sprained thumb. He gets out of the inning on another fly out, but if the bullpen comes into play, we just might have ourselves a ballgame/game of ball.

9:38 pm: Is St. Louis really a country music town? Yet another country and western star I don't know (this shouldn't surprise you) sings "God Bless America." This recent phenomenon really doesn't work in any park except Yankee Stadium, but nobody else will admit it.

9:44 pm: Zumaya starts off the bottom of the seventh by walking David Eckstein because he's so darn short. At least Fox has the radar gun working, as Zumaya hits triple digits against Wilson, though he still can't throw strikes as Leyland visits him and he walks Wilson anyway, which brings up Pujols.

9:48 pm: After falling behind, Zumaya seemingly catches a break when Pujols grounds one right back to him, and in one of the worst plays you'll ever see in a major league game, Zumaya not only throws to the wrong bag (third base, instead of starting the easy 1-4-3 double play), he throws it wildly past Inge, which allows two more runs to score, making it a 4-0 game. This one looks over, folks. Rolen grounds out, which sends Pujols to third. Zumaya comes out for Grilli, the lead looks unsurmountable, and by the look on Zumaya's face as he walks off the field, he thinks so too.

9:57 pm: I said this before in my How The Tigers Were Built piece, but Jason Grilli is pretty cool. It's very rare to see a guy who was the fourth overall pick in the draft toil away for so long in the minors and stick to it. They're usually busts or stars, but Grilli established himself as a usable marginal reliever, and didn't do so until he was 27. Hard not to root for him. Grilli wraps a couple of ground balls around an intentional walk to end the damage.

10:00 pm: Things Steven Goldman and I have talked about in between innings: The 1946 World Series, Italian food with staples in it, why there is no baseball in Brazil, the short-lived Trevor Crowe at second base experiment, how some people in southern New Jersey have a drawl, the career of Peter Sellers. There's some baseball in there.

10:04 pm: Carpenter is still in, he strikes out Rodriguez, and all seems well. McCarver and Buck go on and on about how Carpenter has yet to throw a curveball and he starts off Casey with a good one for strike one. I giggle. Casey singles, but Carpenter gets Inge to ground into a double play, and the only question now is: will he go the distance?

10:09 pm: Fernando Rodney comes in to pitch the bottom of the eighth. He's throwing in the mid-90s and it looks like slow motion compared to Zumaya, who kinda stunk, but was still awfully fun to watch. I'm told by Fox that Chris Carpenter's favorite music is from the Dave Matthews Band, and I'm so rooting for the Tigers in the ninth now that Carpenter is assured to begin the inning after sacrificing Taguchi, who walked over to second base. Rodney's control is no better than Zumaya's, as Eckstein and Wilson both walk, bringing up Pujols with the bases loaded. Leyland goes for the unconventional by removing Rodney for Zach Miner. Goldman notes how awful Miner was in the second half. For a while, it looks like Leyland might bring in the lefty, Jamie Walker, to try and get a groundball. How many times has a team brought a lefty in to face Pujols? That's why we have Keith Woolner, because in mere minutes he can gives us the answer, and it is four.

  • 30-JUL-2006 Will Ohman (Cubs) walked Pujols with two out in the 7th, and a runner on first, Cardinals trailing by 3
  • 07-JUL-2005 Armando Almanza (Diamondbacks) got Pujols to pop out to short with one out in the 8th, runners on first and third, Cardinals down 1-0
  • 20-MAY-2004 Pujols reached on an error by the third baseman with Mike Stanton (Mets) on the mound with two out in the 9th, runners on first and third (runner on third scored on the play) and the Cardinals leading 10-3
  • 16-APR-2004 Jeff Fassero (Rockies) gave up a single to Pujols with one out in the 3rd, Cardinals up 11-3, bases empty

10:24 pm: Pudge gets hit by a foul ball in an uncomfortable area, which McCarver, ever the voice of experience, notes is "very, very painful."

10:27 pm: Once Pudge can breathe again, Miner decides to test Rodriguez by throwing another one in the dirt, which goes to the wall and allows Taguchi to come home, making it 5-0.

10:29 pm: Miner avoids letting Pujols hurt him by plunking him--there's a nice moment as Pujols jogs to first base, picks up the ball that hit him and underhands it back to Miner. Rolen grounds into the hard-to-find 5U-3 double play on what is just a terrific play by Neifi Perez. If it was a close game, we might be talking about that play for awhile, but it's not, so we won't.

10:35 pm: With the five-run lead and the long bottom of the eighth, Carpenter is pulled, and the last three outs of the game are the responsibility of Braden Looper.

10:36 pm: Instead of the ant cam at the plate, we now have one looking at the mound. It's a ridiculous, useless gimmick, and the angle adds nothing to the game other than making Looper look like he's about to talk about how he smells the blood of an Englishman.

10:39 pm: No tacos for America as it's another hack-tastic inning for the Tigers who go down in short order. Carpenter was fantastic, and that's pretty much all there is to say...other than...wait for it...rumba panties.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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