June 27, 2008

Thomas takes walkoff walk as Card's pen issues two free RBI-BBs, edged 3-2 in 10

A June 26 4thebirds post from another network, by permission:


Less than 12 hours after the end of last night's disappointing loss, the Cardinals took on the Tigers in a rubber game at Comerica Park.


Tigers' manager Jim Leyland sent Nate Robertson to the mound, a left-hander. The Cardinals' manager, Tony La Russa, stacked the right-handed swingers against him, including, fresh off the DL, Albert Pujols, who singled in his first at-bat.


The only pure left-side swingers were Rick Ankiel and Adam Kennedy, and Kennedy, due to Pujols as DH. With the infield, from third to first, Aaron Miles, Brendan Ryan, Kennedy, and Troy Glaus, you might, instead of saying the Cards played a utility infielder, say they played a utility infield, every player having played multiple infield positions already this season.


A pitcher's duel ensued for five innings before La Russa brought in Ron Villone for the sixth, an inning that saw the Tigers' Placido Polanco ejected from the game for arguing his strikeout with the home plate umpire. Still, the Tigers managed to fill the bases. With one out, Villone struck out Miguel Cabrera, then permitted the first run of the game when he walked Clete Thomas.


Walking batters in relief has been the bane of bullpen, and understandably, La Russa yanked Villone. Jason Isringhausen got the call, getting out of the inning with one pitch, getting Gary Sheffield to pop out to Ryan.


Down 1-0, Ryan led off the seventh, Robertson still on the hill. Ryan singled. Barton laid down a semi-sacrifice bunt, but illegally ran inside the foul line, causing the received throw to be dropped. Barton was called out for the interference, and worse, Ryan was ordered sent back to first base by the umpires, as no gain could be made from an illegal play. Miles then hit a double into the right field corner. Ryan wouldn't have scored on the play, but a Ryan Raburn throw overshot everyone and landed in the Tigers' dugout. Ryan scored on the play, and Miles was awarded third base.


At that point, Leyland brought in Fernando Rodney. An intentional walk was issued to Albert Pujols, who had already tallied three hits on the day, and Rodney dispatched Glaus and Ludwick to end the Cardinals' rally, leaving two ducks on the pond.


With the score now tied at 1-each, Isringhausen remained in the game, but had a bit of a hitch during warm-ups, favoring his right leg. He managed to strike out Mike Hollimon, then got Dane Sardinha to pop out to Kennedy. Granderson hit an infield chopper that was too deep for Ryan to do anything with behind second base, wisely putting the ball in his pocket. The next big question was whether the speedy Granderson had the ability to steal, especially off of Isringhausen, who is know for being slow to the plate. Now, for the improbable. Granderson got a great jump on a slow delivery to home, and to top it off, the pitch was one of Isringhausen's downward sweeping curve balls, if you can call it that. In any event, Izzy's curve was slow. Jason LaRue threw a mildly high strike to second base, and Granderson was out on a play that wasn't all that close, considering the aforementioned attributes of the play.


The eighth went quietly, and both teams found themselves in the same situation as the early morning finish, all knotted up in the ninth.


Leyland stuck with what worked last night, bringing in the Tigers' closer, Todd Jones. Skip Schumaker got a one-out pinch-hit single to left, then advanced when Aaron Miles hit a flare, almost misreading the hit so badly that he might have been forced out at second base, had the Tigers defense noticed Schumaker heading back toward first base, acting as if he was sure the Miles' fly would be caught. Pujols got his shot, hitting a hard ground ball that found the hole on the left side, Schumaker scrambling home ahead of the throw. The one run was all the Cardinals could muster, but it put them up 2-1 with the Tigers down to three outs.


Cards' closer Ryan Franklin was called upon to hold the Tigers in their last at-bats. Sheffield had other ideas, hanging tough on any kind of pitch and location Franklin had to offer, eventually cranking one out in field left. The Cardinals continued to scrap for Franklin in the field, executing a good cut-off relay on a Holliman double to right field, Ludwick missing the first cut-off man, but hitting the back-up, Ryan, who wheeled and fired a strike on the third base bag, Miles gloving and tagging Holliman trying to stretch his double into a triple.


Booby Seay came on to pitch the tenth for the Tigers, holding the Cardinals.


La Russa called on 25-year-old Mike Parisi, who had been a starter for years, then had a few good appearances in relief, and then, botched a few major league starts. Granderson led off with a single to right, advancing to second on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Raburn. La Russa then had Carlos Guillen intentionally walked to set up the double play, his run meaningless at this juncture. Ordonez had his chance to play hero, but not before pitching coach Dave Duncan would visit the young Cardinals hurler. Ordonez accomplished a sacrifice fly to Ludwick in right field, Granderson advancing to third on the tag-up. La Russa then had Cabrera intentionally walked, loading up the bases for an easy force out at any base, but piling the pressure on Parisi to face Thomas with the bases loaded. Given the Cardinals' relievers' difficulties with walking hitters, even to the point of walking them in for runs, the move was gutsy. Parisi worked the count full, then threw a couple off the plate to walk in the winning run, another tough loss for the Cardinals, the relief corps getting eaten alive on walks, and of the type that hurts the most--with the bases loaded.


The Cardinals lost the series in Detroit, something they don't often do, and on a day where Albert Pujols returned to gather four hits and a walk, they couldn't prevent handing out free runs to the Tigers, losing 3-2 in ten innings.


The way the Cards lost can be distributed amongst the team, but it is likely the media will throw this on the shoulders of Mike Parisi, who, while having his troubles, didn't pitch any worse an inning than some of the other relievers. Like McClellan last night, however, Parisi will take away a tough loss that hopefully will spur him on toward better performances in the future.


Parisi took the loss to go 0-4 while Seay got the win, improving to 1-1.


To add insult to injury, this was the third walk-off walk Parisi had endured, and for Thomas, the walk-off walk in the tenth was his second RBI on the day by this method.