April 9, 2009

D-9-3-4 v Pirates

With one out in the top of the second inning, the Pirates were rallying. Ryan Doumit was batting with the bases loaded with Bucs, Nyger Morgan on third, Freddy Sanchez on second, and Nate McLouth on first.

Doumit lashed a single to Ryan Ludwick in right field, who appropriately fired toward home plate within reach of a lined-up cut-off man, Albert Pujols, the Cards' first baseman.

Meanwhile, Cards' second baseman Brendan Ryan circled behind Doumit as he rounded first base. Ryan quickly set up at first base.

Doumit, with Pujols only several feet on the infield grass and obviously not far from him, didn't stray too far beyond first base.

It didn't matter.

Ludwick's strike toward home was on line with Pujols, who made the cut (although I don't know if he did so on his own or if one of the infielders called "Cut-one!"

Either way, Pujols was fully aware that Doumit was beyond first base and that teammate Ryan had taken a ready position at first base. Pujols cut off the Ludwick throw, spun, and threw to Ryan, who slapped down a tagged on the surprised Doumit as he tried to return to first, too late.

This secured the second out; the next batter, Adam LaRoche, popped out to third baseman David Freese to end the inning, and the rally, making certain the Pirates did not get too huge of a lead.

The defensive play worked well because of four factors.

Ludwick's throw was on target toward home, which made it "cut-able."

Pujols was alert to the play at hand; there was no delay in transferring the caught ball to his throwing hand and making the subsequent throw to Ryan at first base.

Ryan had the presence of mind to sneak around and in behind Doumit.

Doumit was careless.

To be sure, any defensive play involving a cut-off man relies on the outfielder making an proper approach to fielding the ball, then making an accurate throw to whatever base is the target, but doing so "through" the cut-off man, which may be any of the four infielders, depending on the target base.

Game #2 -- vs. Pirates -- April 8, 2009