Piniella out-La Russas La Russa

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In case you missed it, there was some fun stuff in last night’s Cubs-Cardinals game:

Angel Guzman started the ninth, and the first two Cardinals batters
got on base via a hit and an error. Guzman was lifted for [Sean]
Marshall, who walked pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha to load the bases.

Piniella then moved Marshall to left field and pulled outfielder
Alfonso Soriano from the game. Aaron Heilman came in to face
right-handed-hitting Brendan Ryan and struck him out.

Piniella then made another double-switch and put Marshall back as
pitcher, and Reed Johnson was inserted into left field. Marshall struck
out pinch-hitter Jarrett Hoffpauir. Colby Rasmus then lofted the ball
to left, and Johnson made a diving catch to end the inning.

I’ve seen that before — and here’s a great account of it happening with the fun old ’86 Mets — but it’s certainly not the kind of thing that happens too often. Some commenters over at my other blog
are suggesting that, if a manager was inclined to do this more often,
maybe it could become some radical new efficiency in that he could
forever go lefty-righty-lefty with only two pitchers if he wanted to,
although I believe that’s against the rules now as switcheroos like
that are limited. Even if they weren’t, however, I think such an
experiment would last until the exact moment a loogy misplayed a fly ball, and then it would never happen again, but it was fun while it lasted.

I think there were only two reasons for Piniella doing this last night.
First: it was just before the All-Star break and, like a classroom on
the last day of school before summer vacation, rules get bent and a
little zaniness is allowed. Second: the opposing manager was Tony La
Russa, who has never met a double switch, weird strategy, or pitching
change he doesn’t like, and Piniella simply decided to show him that he
cannot be out-crazied, even by Genius La Russa.

Albert Pujols is eighth on the all-time home run list

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Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.

With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.

The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Nationals place Max Scherzer on 10-day disabled list with neck inflammation

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The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.

Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.

It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.