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.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.