A lackluster series gets serious in the span of one (very long) at-bat.
Game Four between the Cardinals and Nationals gave the people what they wanted: a lengthy, dramatic, Hollywood-inspired at-bat that ended a postseason game with an exclamation point. Earlier in the day, Jay Bruce delivered the first half late in the Giants-Reds series, but failed to punctuate. Walk-off home runs are exciting regardless of the at-bat length; however, there’s just something magical about seeing a pitcher and hitter going at it for 10, 11, 12 pitches before reaching a conclusion. Jayson Werth and Lance Lynn did one better: they dueled for 13 pitches.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
The Cardinals play the Braves in Atlanta for a spot in the Division Series
The last time the Cardinals met the Braves in the postseason, in 2000, St. Louis swept a three-game series by outscoring Atlanta 24-10. Only six players from that series remain active and two, Rafael Furcal and Chipper Jones, will attend this one. Fresher on the minds of both squads and their fans is what happened last year, when the Cardinals made a late-season surge and stole away the Braves’ postseason ticket on the season’s final night. Consider this Atlanta’s opportunity for revenge.
A series of questionable moves, bloopers, and blown calls to the bullpen were pertinent in the outcome of Game Five.
Given not only his history but the clinic in bullpen management that Tony La Russa put on in the NLCS, it’s difficult to believe that he could wind up botching a situation as badly as he did in the eighth inning of Monday's Game Five of the World Series. But thanks to a miscommunication between the Cardinals' dugout and their bullpen, a manager who has spent his career chasing the platoon advantage ad nauseam was left with lefty Marc Rzepczynski facing righty Mike Napoli with the bases loaded and one out. Meanwhile, the pitcher he wanted to face the Rangers' best hitter at the game’s pivotal moment wasn't even warmed up. Napoli, whose three-run homer had broken the game open the night before, pounded a double off the right-center field wall, breaking a 2-2 tie and helping the Rangers take a 3-2 lead in the Series.
How to avoid having a reliever go in to issue an intentional walk and then leave the game.
In one of the strangest sequences in memory, the Cardinals sent Lance Lynn to the mound to face Ian Kinsler. Lynn intentionally walked Kinsler - a straight-up intentional walk, not just pitching around the guy. Then Lynn was pulled for Jason Motte. In the post game press conference, Tona La Russa attributed this bizarre set of pitching changes to the fact that the bullpen warmed up the wrong pitcher, sending him Lynn when he was expecting Motte to begin with.
Albert Pujols makes history in the process of putting the Cardinals up 2-1.
"When you have the bat in your hand, you can always change the story," said Reggie Jackson years ago. Mired in the controversy regarding a post-Game Two no-show following his ninth-inning relay flub, Albert Pujols changed the story on Saturday night, becoming just the third player ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game and collecting five hits en route to a Series-record 14 total bases. Before hitting his first home run, Pujols had already collected two hits while helping the Cardinals build an 8-6 lead; his three-run, sixth-inning homer off Alexi Ogando broke the game open en route to a 16-7 rout and a 2-1 Series lead. The Cardinals' 16 runs tied the 2002 Giants and 1960 Yankees for the second-highest single-game total in Series history.
Could the Cardinals' quest to re-win the Central disappear with a single sproing?
"Sproing" is the sound an elbow makes when it goes from a ready state to something that helps pay off an orthopedic surgeon's student loans, and the terror of Cardinals camp is that its echo may bring everything in this year's bid to re-win the NL Central to a dead stop. The diagnosis of a potentially devastating injury hangs over the Cardinals' hopes for 2011, and no, we're not talking Nick Punto's sports hernia. Adam Wainwright has flown back to St. Louis to see if the pain in his elbow is bad news or the worst news, and more than his two-year, $21 million nested options for 2012-13 hang in the balance.
There's no way to minimize the implication. PECOTA projected Wainwright to be the seventh-best pitcher in the league via WARP, and at this time of year nobody close to that is available or about to be made available via trade. The Cardinals may look to deal, but that's because the best internal options are far from sure things. The Cards were already in a situation where they already have Kyle Lohse to regret. Jake Westbrook was supposed to fix this problem, converting Lohse into baseball's most expensive fifth starter.
The Rays' swag in June picks could be a player-development bonanza.
With the MLB draft order nearly finalized (Felipe Lopez has a shot at messing things up a bit), much of the talk before the 2010 prospects actually start playing is the flurry of picks acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays. Thanks to free-agent compensation, the Rays currently have 12 selections between No. 24 and No. 89 overall in June's draft. That is a nice bounty in what has the potential to be one of the deeper drafts in recent memory, but to be fair cost has to be taken into account. Based on 2010 bonus recommendations for each draft slot made by MLB, those picks have a "value" of just over $9 million.
"Stars and scrubs" left the Cards on the outside looking in, so how about one more star?
So here we are in Mound City, home of the team that featured three of the 10 most-valuable players in the major leagues last season, and wound up with nothing but October golf dates to show for it. It would be easy, on a visceral level, to overreact and decide that the stars-and-scrubs formula hasn't worked, and start shopping one of the stars, but one of the advantages of this strategy for roster assembly is that you can easily replace the scrubs, and if you're worrying about expense, you know where to avoid it while making sure to spend top dollar on the capital items. It's the eight-figure mistakes with the likes of Kyle Lohse that are the ones to avoid.