Posted on: October 26, 2011 7:55 pm
ST. LOUIS -- For the first time since free-lancing a hit-and-run call that backfired badly on the Cardinals in the seventh inning of Game 5, Albert Pujols discussed the play on a gloomy afternoon at Busch Stadium.
"I've been on this club for 11 years, and that's not the first time I've put on a hit-and-run," Pujols said. "I know there's been a lot of discussion of why did he put the play on and why didn't he swing.
"The pitch was high and away. I wouldn't have been able to touch it. And now I would have been 0 and 2 and you don't want to be in that situation."
Instead, Allen Craig was easily thrown out attempting to steal second on the play and, in a 2-2 game, the Cardinals not only didn't have a runner in scoring position, but the Rangers immediately moved to intentionally walk Pujols with first base open.
Manager Tony La Russa, during a passionate defense of Pujols that lasted four minutes a day earlier, said that Pujols has had the freedom to call a play like that hit-and-run for a long, long time because he trusts Pujols. He also said with Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando pitching Pujols so carefully, he would have told Pujols not to do it had the slugger asked him in the dugout before the at-bat -- which often happens.
"They're being very careful with him," La Russa said. "You can't really expect the ball to be around the plate. [Ogando] has a live arm."
Pujols is not the only star player who is given the freedom to use his judgment to make a call like the one he did Monday. La Russa noted some of the great base-stealers who have the green light and asked if you remove that just because it's the playoffs.
In Cleveland when the Indians had their championship teams of the 1990s, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton had signals and often would call plays among each other. In Texas, Micahel Young has done it.
"I did it earlier in my career," Young said Wednesday. "If I was a manager, Albert Pujols would be the one player I'd give the leeway to do whatever he thought was necessary to win a game.
"Albert, in my opinion, is the best player in the game. Not only does he have great power, but he does everything well offensively. So if he wants to put on a hit-and-run, set someone in motion, I would absolutely give Albert the leeway to do what he needed to do."
Pujols estimated that he has called a hit-and-run like that probably "more than 200 times" in his career. He added that he does not "deserve special treatment", but noted it simply is a matter of trust between him and his manager.
What he liked about being aggressive in that particular situation, Pujols said, was that the Rangers had just tied the game at 2-2 on Adrian Beltre's home run in the bottom of the sixth.
"I felt if we could put pressure on right there, maybe we can switch the game a little bit," Pujols said.
He said he did not put the play on for the first pitch because he was thinking Ogando would start him out with a ball. Instead, he got a slider for a called strike.
Then he called for the hit-and-run, Craig took off, and Ogando threw the fateful ball one far enough up and away that Mike Napoli was able to throw Craig out at second.
"People can throw rocks at Tony and me," Pujols said. "But I can tell you, out of 200 hit-and-runs [that Pujols has called], or maybe 150, believe me, we've won a lot of those games, too."
Posted on: October 24, 2011 1:33 am
ARLINGTON, Texas -- You won't find this in the reams of scouting reports St. Louis' advance guys produced on Texas. But trust me, it's in there -- in spirit, if not in black and white.
Anytime your walk rate soars anywhere close to that of a Cardinals pitcher named Wild Bill Hallahan in a World Series game, it's not a good thing.
Though he kept his team in the ballgame until his sixth-inning departure, Edwin Jackson walked the high wire all evening. His seven walks equaled the franchise record for walks in a World Series game set by, yes, Hallahan, in Game 2 of the 1931 World Series against the Philadelphia A's.
Though the Cardinals trailed only 1-0 when Jackson left, they instantly were down 4-0 just one pitch later. Rangers catcher Mike Napoli crushed Mitchell Boggs' first pitch, and the two batters Jackson had walked in front of Napoli -- Nelson Cruz and David Murphy -- scored on the homer.
Jackson said he mostly "made pitches when I had to" but acknowledged battling his location much of the evening.
"It's just one of those things," Jackson said. "You tell yourself, 'Just focus on the next batter.'"
Four of Jackson's walks came to the 6-7-8 hitters in the Texas lineup: One to Cruz, two to Murphy and one to Napoli.
"I actually thought, in his almost six innings, he deserves a lot of credit," manager Tony La Russa said. "I thought he pitched really well."
La Russa acknowledged the Rangers scoring just three batters into the game on Josh Hamilton's RBI double, but noted, "that's all they get, really. He missed a few times, walked a couple of guys, but he kept making pitches.
"Overall, I give him a huge plus for keeping us in the game."
Posted on: October 21, 2011 7:30 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The World Series changes venues, and you know what that means: As the only sport that changes rules in its championship event, Game 3 here brings with it the designated hitter Saturday.
For the Cardinals, it's a chance to get Allen Craig into the lineup following his two RBI pinch-hits against Alexi Ogando in Games 1 and 2. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he will play Craig in right field and move veteran Lance Berkman to designated hitter.
"It really comes down to just respecting Lance," La Russa said. "He's a pivot on that, and talking to him, I think we'll play Allen in right field and Lance will DH and we'll go day-to-day with it."
Rangers manager Ron Washington did not publicly reveal his plans because, as he said, "we just arrived at the ballpark and I haven't had a chance to tell my guys yet."
But later in the day, he told the writers who cover the Rangers that Michael Young will be his DH, Mike Napoli will play first base and Yorvit Torrealba will catch.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 10:36 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This had all of the earmarks of a Texas disaster.
Starter Derek Holland fought his command from the start, laboring through a 29-pitch first inning. He was lucky to hold Tampa Bay to one run.
Then he surrendered a two-run home run to Matt Joyce in the fourth, and it got real quiet real fast at The Ballpark in Arlington.
Then, what raw rookie Matt Moore did for Tampa Bay on Friday became even more impressive: Texas hammered James Shields for five runs in the fourth and never looked back, pounding its way to an 8-6 win. And in evening this Division Series at 1-1, the Rangers served notice of why they're so lethal.
Did Moore really shut out this crew for seven innings in Game 1?
Did anybody really think the Rangers were going to stay silent in this thing?
The Rangers love Holland, and with good reason. Just 24, he mixes a low-90s fastball with a curve that dips into the low 70s and a slider somewhere in-between, Holland finished the regular season by going 10-1 with a 2.77 ERA in his final 15 starts beginning July 7.
What Holland did Saturday on a day on which he wasn't sharp was keep the Rangers close.
Then the Texas lineup did the rest, from Mike Napoli's two-run, game-tying single in the fourth to Ian Kinsler's two-run double in the sixth to Mitch Moreland's exclamation point of a home run in the eighth.
By the end, believe it or not, Texas had won its first home game in Division Series history. Before Saturday, the Rangers were 0-7. They were 0-1 in this series.
Posted on: September 24, 2011 12:40 am
Maybe if they run into the Phillies in this year's World Series the guy will return to haunt them. But on a wild Friday when the Rangers became the third team in one night to clinch a division title, a budding dynasty continued to grow without Cliff Lee.
Yes, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando helped prove there should be no doubting the Rangers' rotation. Adding Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre to a core featuring Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler was plenty.
And in the end, after beating Seattle 5-3 and then watching the Angels lose to Oakland 3-1, the Rangers proved it once and for all.
AL West champions for a second consecutive year, and that's not the autumn wind blowing in. It's a changing of the guard.
Where once the road to the AL West title led through Anaheim, that trail is now as dusty and abandoned as some of the old California gold mining spots. Where the Angels won five of six AL West titles between 2004 and 2009, the Rangers now have gone back-to-back for the first time since 1998-1999. Clmbing the charts with a bullet, and looking to finish with a better record than AL Central champ Detroit so they can open the playoffs at home on Friday.
Apparently, losing Lee didn't gut them as badly as just about everyone but the Rangers themselves thought it would. More impressively, Texas, 14-6 so far in September, is playing as well this month as it has all season.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 4:38 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 6:05 pm
Working two of the most important innings he's ever pitched, Peavy passed a significant test here in his first time back on a major-league mound since tearing his latissimus dorsi muscle completely from the bone under his right shoulder last July 6.
"I'm relieved, pleased," Peavy said after the two-inning outing against the Angels. "It was a good day, a big step in the right direction. To get in a game, I did what I expected, what I hoped I'd do. I was able to turn it up a level.
"I did what I was hoping to do. I got big league hitters out and felt normal doing it."
Peavy faced the minimum of six hitters over the two innings. He threw his fastball, cut fastball and breaking ball, but no change-ups. With his fastball, he pitched in the 90-91 m.p.h. range, with a couple at 92.
Before the injury, his fastball averaged between 92-94 m.p.h.
"I think maybe he's got tiger blood," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen quipped. "Not Tiger Woods. Tiger blood."
"I wasn't airing it out," he said, noting that he's "slowly tried to climb" to higher levels this spring and that "by the end of spring training, there will be some grunts in there and we'll see what's in the tank before the regular season starts."
Peavy threw 16 strikes and 10 balls in his 26 pitches. He obtained only three swings-and-misses, but, as he noted, he wasn't airing it out, either.
"We were looking forward to today, and he passed everything," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "We weren't going to grade him on velocity or even on location. What we were going to grade him on today was, 'How do you feel before, and after?'"
The mental hurdles he's facing in battling back from an unprecedented injury?
"Today was one of those," he said. "It was big to get out on the mound and make big league hitters swing and miss and throw fastballs around 90.
"The last time I threw a fastball, to Mike Napoli [last July 6], it wasn't pretty."
Peavy is the only known pitcher to completely tear the lat muscle from the bone. He told me in this column from last month that doctors said Kerry Wood and Tom Gordon each suffered tears in the lat muscle, but those were only 30 or 40 percent tears.
Posted on: December 8, 2008 3:58 pm
So they made the deal for Laird.