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10 April 2011

Breaking Down The Cardinals Loss & Franklin's Third Blown Save

Another blown save by Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin.  Another St. Louis loss.  This one in the most excruciating fashion imaginable.  The San Francisco Giants were down to their last strike.  Runners on 1st and 2nd, and Mr B-12 himself - Miguel Tejada - at the plate.

Let's stop right there and recap a bit.  Jaime Garcia was absolutely masterful tonight.  He had no-hitter stuff.  But in the fifth inning, a Garcia pitch gets away and hits Pat Burrell up around the head and neck.  Next, Miguel Tejada grounds a single between short and third.  Then former Cardinal Mark DeRosa shortened his swing, punched a little flair to right, and the Giants took a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the sixth, Skip Schumaker drew a walk, two groundouts moved him to third, and he scored on a wild pitch.  Then in the eighth, Colby Rasmus hit a towering home run to the deepest part of AT&T ballpark to give the Cardinals the lead.  Miguel Batista gave up a two-out triple to Nate Schierholz, but then struck out Freddie Sanchez swinging to take us to the ninth.

In the top half of the inning, and desperately needing an insurance run or two to take some pressure off the struggling Franklin, the Cardinals manages to sandwich a weak fly out between two soft ground outs. A rather uninspired effort at a time when more was needed.

So we reach the bottom of the ninth.  Franklin comes in and promptly got Aubrey Huff to ground out.  The next batter was Buster Posey.  Posey then did something Cardinal fans had forgotten could be done.  He shortened his stroke and took a decent pitch the other way for single.  It was a fabulous piece of hitting - one I wish some St. Louis player would do (Skip is doing that this season...he's it).  Franklin looked to be a bit rattled at this point and walked Pat Burrell.  Giants rookie first-baseman Brandon Belt pinch-ran for Burrell.

Now, Cardinal twitter Nation started going beserk.  Everyone seemed to know what was coming.  Aaron Rowand was coming up, and the end was nigh.  But the ever-fading Rowand hit a fly ball caught by right-fielder Lance Berkman.  So in walks Tejada.

Franklin gets a called striked on a fastball.  It was a good pitch.  Then Tejada fouled off a nice sinker.  Up in the count, Franklin put a pitch in the dirt, but Tejada took it for a ball.  Tejado ruined a 1-2 fastball by fouling it off.  Next, Franklin threw a splitter in the dirt, but Tejada didn't go fishing.  Another pitch out of the zone, and we have a full-count.

This was a very exciting at bat.  The two veterans were really in a battle.  Franklin hadn't made a mistake, but neither had Tejada.  With the count full, I was certain that Franklin would bust him in on the hands and he did.  What I didn't expect was the bat speed of Tejada to get around on the pitch and rip it just foul down the third base line.  It was the perfect pitch from Franklin, but at 91mph, I guess it didn't have enough oomph.

After Tejada fouled off another cutter to stay alive, the at bat was getting interesting.  Franklin started out having control, but after the last two foul balls I began wondering what the Cardinals closer would do.  What he did was throw a fastball around the plate that Tejada got a good swing on.  He struck it well, and lifted it into left-centerfield.  The crowd thought he got it all - and I did too.  But Franklin had missed the sweet spot of Tejada's bat.  Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus raced back towards the warning track and converged on the ball.  A sure out to end the game.

But No!  As unbelievable as it seems, Rasmus had it in his glove and had it pop out.  He used two hands as our dads taught us, and he dropped it.  Posey scored.  Belt raced around from first and scored the winning run.  I could not believe what I just saw.

The play looked strange.  While it was no can of corn, it was a play you see major league outfielders make all the time.  But Jon Jay was very close to Rasmus as the ball came down, and it appeared to this observer that Rasmus may have been worried about a collision at the last second.

Why was Jay right there?  Did Colby fail to take charge of the play?  He's the center-fielder - it's his call.  Did Rasmus flake out and think Holliday was the left-fielder?  I doubt Holliday has the range to be right there like Jay was.  Perhaps it was too loud as the Giants fans thought it might be a home run off the bat.  If that's the case, it would be tremendous breakdown in fundamentals for a Tony LaRussa managed team.

LaRussa didn't give much insight, as he was testy in the post-game interview.  Understandably so, since this had to be one of the most brutal losses he's had to endure in his long managerial career.  And coming at a time when his ball club could really use the win.

And an even bigger question lies with Franklin who was clearly quite emotional and shaken after suffering his third blown save in four chances this season.  A question mark at the end of the bullpen is not what a reeling team that can't score runs needs.

Another unfathomable facet on this nightmarish night was the fact that it was scored a double for Tejada.  How can that possibly be?  The ball hit Rasmus in the glove - that must be an error.  Must be.  I'm a fan of home cooking as the next guy, but this is another example of how official scorers in Major League baseball have become nearly as corrupt as the judges in a professional boxing match.  A travesty.  A sham.  A mockery.

There was no comment I heard from Jaime Garcia about not getting the win out of such a brilliant performance.  I'm not sure I would understand all of what he would have to say, but I am certain that this Arizona-based scribe could pick out the curse words.


Christine said...

Good description of the action, Mike -- I will admit I wasn't necessarily watching as closely as perhaps I should have during the bottom of the ninth, and especially the Tejada at bat. Too busy just praying and wishing for a win.

Today is a new day!

Michael Turner said...

Author's Response: I must admit I was keeping track of Tejada's at bat because I was feeling defensive of him due to all the hateful things said on twitter. I'm glad I did. It was a classic at bat.
And you are absolutely correct - "Today is a new day!"

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