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04 May 2011

Cardinals Descalso First HR Means Victory

St. Louis Cardinals utility infielder Daniel Descalso had never hit a Major League home run coming into Tuesday nights game against the Florida Marlins.  Granted he had only 90 at bats on the grand stage.  But in 1,808 minor league at bats, Descalso totaled 27 dingers and a slugging percentage of .406.

What all those stats sum up is that we should have seen it coming.

Seen what coming, you ask?  Let's set the situation.  The Redbirds are trailing the Marlins 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning.  The Cardinals had squandered multiple opportunities with the bases loaded and less than two-outs, only tallying one run from such riches.  Now they have two on and two outs.  Lance Berkman has just been thrown out at the plate running on contact on Yadier Molina's ground ball back to the pitcher.

Perhaps the Marlins felt a shift in the wind, as they changed pitchers so that right-handed reliever Clay Hensley can face the left-handed hitting Descalso (don't ask me why, I just report the facts).

Hensley offers Descalso an 84-mph sinker, which is fouled off.  I'm not sure why it's classified as a sinker, but any 84-mph pitch from a major league hurler would appear to those watching as having a "sinking action". 

Let us examine this more closely.  Descalso has some pop in his bat, totaling 5 doubles and a triple this season amongst his 12 hits.  But he's batting .214 with a .333 slugging percentage for the season entering the game.  Hensley replaced Ryan Webb, who served up 95-mph heat to Yadi in the previous at bat.  Not sure why Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez decided that Hensley's stuff was a better match against Descalso than Webb's.  Sometimes the thought of facing Cards manager Tony La Russa makes lesser men out-smart themselves.

Back to the action.  On his second pitch, Hensley balloons an 80-mph off-speed delivery that Descalso deposits with dispatch into the right-field seats for a three-run homer.  Shades of Tom Lawless.  Go crazy, folks.  Go crazy.

Matt Holliday hit a home run in the first inning to spot starting pitcher Kyle McClellan a two-run lead.  But McClellan wasn't sharp.  And neither was the St. Louis defense.

The top of the third was a carnival, as the Marlins plated two runs without the benefit of a hit, an error, nor a ball hit to the outfield.  How does such a thing occur?  Horrific official scorekeeping, two walks, a passed ball, and the random, odd occurrences that make baseball so special.

La Russa added to the circus atmosphere by crazily inserting reserve infielder Tyler Greene as a defensive replacement in LF for veteran former (and current) outfielder Lance Berkman!?!?!  In the top of the sixth, TLR replaced power bat Allen Craig at third base for better defense with light hitting Nick Punto.  Craig was due up second in the bottom half of the frame.

Craig got the start at third, contributing a run scored, a double on a hustle play, two walks, and an RBI when he was walked with the bases loaded in the second inning.  Craig did air-mail a throw to first base that allowed Gaby Sanchez  to reach base leading off the fourth inning - an inning that the Marlins scored twice.
He did nothing to lose the third base job in the absence of David Freese, nor did he stake any claim to the job.

Eduardo (don't call him "Dirty") Sanchez got the save, following two innings of relief from Eduardo Sanchez and one perfect eighth inning from Jason Motte.

It was an ugly, eventful, long, but fun game Tuesday.  Wednesday night Chris Carpenter will have the ball for the NL Central Division leading St. Louis Cardinals.

1 comment:

Pitchers Hit Eighth said...

I am infinitely more confident in the bullpen when Ryan Franklin and Miguel Batista don't come out of it.

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